Review- Zodiac Starforce #1

Zodiac Starforce: By the Power of Astra by Kavin Panetta and Paulina Ganucheau

Processed with VSCO with t1 presetGenre: Superhero graphic novel
Format: Hardcover library binding
Publication date: May 31, 2016
Publisher: Dark Horse Books
Page count: 136
Star rating: 2.5/5

Zodiac Starforce is a group of girls who fight monsters and evil, in general. They each have a different zodiac sign and come with their own, unique powers. In this episode, Diana, the popular girl at school, tries to get the Zodiac Starforce leader to join her team of evil. The other girls must try and save their friend before she is too far gone. There is also a bit of romance on the side too, because what’s a superhero girl gang without a bit of queer girl love?

I have been on the hunt for graphic novels about groups of female superheroes for a while. I found a few, but Zodiac Starforce was the only one that my university library already had on its shelves. The rest are on their way to me! One of my favorite things about this book is the color scheme. Often, women superheroes are assigned blue and red colors. This is great, but I wish pink were also depicted as a strong, powerful color. Primary colors are not the only colors allowed to stand for superheroes! Pink is brave! The artwork in Zodiac Starforce was so bubbly, colorful, and pink. I absolutely loved looking at it.

I, unfortunately, wasn’t as impressed with the storyline. I felt like there were a lot of jumps in plot that made the book hard to follow. Sometimes, I thought a scene hadn’t been completed, but then it cut to a new location or something 2 weeks later. I understand that this first installment in Zodiac Starforce is short, but I wish there had been more continuity. I hate feeling confused while I’m reading. I had to try very hard not to get parts mixed up while reading this and I still ended up feeling like I was missing something a few times.

I noticed that one of the girls has bigger thighs than the others, but she’s still pretty slim. I would like to see more diversity in body size and shape in a feminist comic like this. Unfortunately, many books and companies that are beginning to incorporate women with thicker bodies are only using women with flat stomachs. It think Zodiac Starforce should incorporate more curvy women and body types readers may not normally see in graphic novels. I see the attempt that the creators made, but they could have taken it further.

I loved the artwork for this book, but it wasn’t the feminist, girl gang graphic novel I was searching for. I feel like I didn’t see much in this comic that I hadn’t seen before. For that reason, I will continue my search for a graphic novel featuring empowered women of color fighting evil. I hope future graphic novels I pick up feature pink and purple like Zodiac Starforce did.

Advertisements

Review- Earth Girl

Earth Girl by Janet Edwards

Processed with VSCO with t1 presetGenre: YA Science Fiction
Format: Hardcover
Publication date: March 5, 2013
Publisher: Pyr (Fantasy imprint of Prometheus Books)
Page count: 350
Star rating: 5/5

Jarra is Handicapped, or an ‘ape’ (although, she’s not supposed to call herself that derogatory name), and she wants to prove everyone wrong about her limitations. Unlike all the normal people in the galaxy, or all the ‘exos’, Jarra is forced to live on Earth with the other Handicapped humans. Being Handicapped means that you lack the gene that allows you to portal to other planets. Jarra has lived her whole life surrounded by other Handicapped students, because exos are often scared or disgusted with them. This is silly, because you can’t ‘catch’ this lack of gene, and exos certainly are no different than humans sentenced to live on Earth. Jarra has a dream of attending a university for exos, but in order to achieve this dream, she has to go in undercover. More than anything, Jarra wants to become a successful historian and she wants to go to a university that isn’t specifically for Handicapped people. What happens when she gets to a university and is faced with exos? Will she blend in or will they discover her secret right away? Can Jarra show them that she’s the same as every other human who can visit other planets?

YES. YES. YES. This is the first book I’ve read in a long time that I couldn’t stop thinking about. Whether I was in class, at the gym, or falling asleep, I couldn’t keep Earth Girl off my mind. I was genuinely excited to wake up in the morning because it meant that I could read again that day. I’ve read a lot of really great titles in the past few months, especially sci-fi ones, but this book really had me on the edge of my seat. For that reason, I can’t give this book anything less than 5 stars.

I originally bought Earth Girl at BookCon this past June. I told someone working the Prometheus Books booth about Hedgehog Book Reviews and what types of books I focus on. He recommended this title because it reflects on ideas involving racism. When I read the back of the book, I didn’t quite believe him. Jarra’s story seemed interesting, but I didn’t get the connection. Well, I was very, very wrong. The way Jarra is treated by exos is essentially how people of color are treated by white people. Some exos even see Handicapped people as less than human and less deserving of rights than themselves. This is extremely sad to read because Handicapped people are literally no different from exos, except that they lack the one gene. This is exactly how PoC are treated, still, in modern day society. I read the entire book as a comparison to the systematic oppression that PoC face and it made it a very powerful title.

Earth Girl is classic sci-fi. Janet Edwards builds an entire futuristic world complete with civilized planets and portals that can send people through space. This book was so creative that I wish the author could release a novella that just describes this world a bit further. I want to know more! I usually am a sucker for sci-fi books that have cool alien species, but Earth Girl was still amazing despite it only being about humans.

I’m so glad I picked up this book at BookCon. I’m only halfway through (maybe not even?) all the titles I got, but I feel lucky that I randomly decided to start this one. I hope to read more Prometheus/Pyr books in the future. Thank you to Janet Edwards for writing such a great sci-fi novel with a cool, strong female character. I think Earth Girl is very powerful in the sense that it touches on themes of racism.

Bookmail Unboxing and Book Haul #1

Bookmail Unboxing and Book Haul #1!

Hey everyone! I’m so excited to start a new category on my blog: bookmail and bookhauls. I won’t have a set day to get these done; I’ll just publish them as I receive things in the mail. These posts will be broken into two sections (pretty self-explanatory). Maybe someday I’ll even film a video of me unboxing something? We’ll see! If this is the kind of thing you want to see more of, just let me know!


BOOKMAIL UNBOXING!

Since my review of Guapa a few months ago, I’ve been in contact with Other Press. On their website, Other Press says, “We publish novels, short stories, poetry, and essays from America and around the world that represent literature at its best”. I was super excited that they responded to my review and liked what I had to say! They generously offered to send me two more titles for review, so that’s all I expected. Today, I was surprised to hear the doorbell ring our weird Christmas jingle (don’t ask me why we have it set to this) and the mailman handed me this huge envelope! It was way heavier and bigger than just the two books I was supposed to get. You can imagine the excitement I had while taking this photo seconds before opening the package!

IMG_7407

So, it’s nothing special. It’s just a large envelope with my name and address on it. But, still, I was wondering what could be inside this mystery package that was much bigger than 2 books. Here’s what I got:

Processed with VSCO with t1 presetProcessed with VSCO with t1 preset

7 books! I was (and still am) so astounded at the generosity of Other Press. I am very thankful for publishers who believe in me and my website. Here are some quick notes on the books I got:

Incarceration Nations by Baz Dreisinger—this is a nonfiction book about the author, who travels around the world to examine the prison systems in several countries. I have a feeling this title will reveal a lot about the history and future of justice, which is something that I believe needs to be talked about more.

Quicksand by Malin Persson Giollito – this book focuses on an 18-year-old girl who is charged for the involvement of a shooting at her school. She is a popular student and the public is waiting to hear how she became a “cold-blooded killer”. I can tell this is going to be an ‘at the edge of your seat’ kind of book!

The Faithful Scribe by Shahan Mufti – This is a nonfiction title about the first Islamic democracy. The author uses stories from his relatives about Islamic civilization in Pakistan. I haven’t read a book like this before, so I’m very eager to start this!

The Diamond Setter by Moshe Sakal – This book is about an Israeli man who gets swept up in the gay scene and protest movement. It features a love triangle between three men. Reading queer stories that take place in countries other than the US is a goal for me, so this is my perfect book.

For Two Thousand Years by Mihail Sebastian – This story, originally published in 1934, is about a Jewish student living in Romania during the years before World War II. It explores anti-Semitism and Zionism. I have yet to review a book that touches on anti-Semitism and I’m very excited to start this one.

Where Women Are Kings by Christie Watson – Seven-year-old Elijah has a history of disruptive behavior, but his adoptive parents believe they can help him succeed. The book talks about racism, as Elijah is black and his adoptive mother is not. This really sounds like my kind of book that I tend to gravitate towards.

The Unit by Ninni Holmqvist – This is a dystopian novel about a world in which men and women over the age of sixty, who are not married and do not have children, are sent to a retirement home. There, they are forced to donate their organs until their final donation. This book sounds so COOL and almost scary!

So, those are the 7 titles I got from Other Press. I can’t even say which one I’m the most excited for! THANK YOU SO MUCH, OTHER PRESS!


MINI BOOKHAUL

I’ve been on a book-buying ban for a while. I haven’t spent money on books in two months! I decided it was time to break this ban and splurged on two titles. I got them used (which saved me some money) and only one has arrived so far. Here it is:

Processed with VSCO with t1 preset

This is Skim by Mariko Tamaki. It’s a graphic novel about a girl nicknamed Skim, who’s in high school, and it explores topics of suicide, depression, and LGBT themes. Skim is a witch, which is super cool, and I related to her character. Yes, I already finished it! Hopefully, I’ll be able to get a review posted for this title soon. I gave it 4/5 stars on Goodreads.


 

Thanks for tuning in! I want to post more unboxings and bookhauls on here. I had a lot of fun writing this one! I’m supposed to get more bookmail later this week, so maybe I’ll write another one soon? The mailman must hate me at this point. Let me know if you enjoyed this or if it bored you!

Review- M.F.K.

M.F.K. by Nilah Magruder

Hey, everyone! I’m so excited to post this review! I’m finally getting back into graphic novels after a few months of primarily reading novels. Insight Comics (whose booth I visited at Bookcon this June) was very generous to send me an advanced copy of M.F.K., which I ended up totally loving. The book was published at the end of September, so you can get your hands on it now!

51TiGCMgCVL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_Genre: Graphic novel/fantasy
Format: Hardcover
Publication date: September 26, 2017
Publisher: Insight Comics
Page count: 128
Star rating: 5/5

Abbie is alone, traveling through the lands, in hopes of reaching a mountain range to scatter her mother’s ashes. Abbie reaches the village of Little Marigold, where a boy named Jaime finds her in pretty poor condition, and his family takes her in to address her wounds. Abbie and Jaime are quick to become friends as they learn more about each other. Rogues, who bully the residents and demand gifts from them, frequently visit Little Marigold. Abbie must decide if she wants to release her hidden power to help the people who kindly healed her in a time of need, or sit back and watch them get hurt. If Abbie shows her true strength, she risks being ostracized by Jaime, his family, and their entire village. Abbie and Jaime, in their newly discovered friendship, aren’t ready to say goodbye to each other just yet.

I absolutely loved the idea behind this story. Abbie is deaf and requires a hearing aid to communicate with Jaime and the rest of Little Marigold. Before M.F.K., I hadn’t read a graphic novel that focused on a character with a hearing impairment. Abbie truly is someone very unique and I’m so glad I got to know her. Books featuring strong, deaf characters are so important for representation and education about deafness. The frustration that comes with realizing literature lacks characters like myself is something I know all too well, and I’m sure readers who have hearing impairments are familiar with this struggle, too. I’m so pumped about this graphic novel, which has an interesting story, amazing art, and an empowered female, deaf character. My hope is that books like M.F.K. inspire other authors to start writing about deaf characters, as the best seller list could certainly use more diversity.

Another thing I liked about M.F.K.’s story was that it’s very sweet. Putting down this book after turning the last page, I felt happy and excited for the next installment in the series. Sometimes, diverse books are very depressing and just…sad. M.F.K. is certainly not like that. It’s kind of like the joke that the entire lesbian section on Netflix either features a couple that ends up splitting up or a character that dies at the end. I’m not sure why this is the case, but often, diverse characters are given unhappy storylines. M.F.K.’s ending made me want to call Nilah Magruder and tell her to hurry up with the sequel because I NEED to know where Abbie’s journey takes her next. The book left me with such a positive feeling, for which I’m grateful.

I’m so honored that Insight Comics sent me this beautiful work. It was such a pleasure reading it and planning out this review. I would recommend M.F.K. to anyone in search of a graphic novel, whether they’re specifically looking for a diverse read or not. I truly think anyone will enjoy this book. Thank you so much to the publisher for this gorgeous title and I look forward to reading more Insight Comics works in the future!

Review- Chasing Shadows

Chasing Shadows (The Star Hunters Book 1) by K.N. Salustro

51CGs2hbiiL._SY445_QL70_Genre: Science fiction
Format: Paperback
Publication date: February 24, 2014
Publisher: CreateSpace
Page count: 234
Star rating: 3.5/5

Lissa is one of the most dangerous bounty hunters known to the Star Federation. Her latest victim put her on the list of high priority criminals that the army is searching for. The Feds believe they’re hot on Lissa’s trail by searching every ship that leaves the planet of her most recent kill. When they end up successfully tracking the right ship, the Feds don’t realize they’re falling into the trap of Neo-Andromedans, an alien species who alters human DNA to form faster and smarter super-humans. Lissa is trying her best not to get caught by the Star Feds or Neo-Andromedans, while the Star Feds have no idea what they’re getting into. Ultimately, someone is going to surrender and lives are going to be lost, right? The Star Feds are large and mighty, but the killer aliens may be one step ahead of them.

I met K.N. Salustro at BookCon this year when I visited her booth and picked up a copy of Chasing Shadows. She was extremely nice and a pleasure to speak with, which made me excited to read her book. I was not disappointed with her work and I’m very excited to publish this review!

I haven’t read a classic hunt-and-chase science fiction novel in a long time. Chasing Shadows was the perfect book to get me back into sci-fi, as I had forgotten how much I love it. I really enjoy reading about strange, alien planets that authors create with their imaginations, and this book is certainly full of them. I thought the Neo-Andromedan storyline was very clever; a species that genetically mutates humans is not a common occurrence in sci-fi literature that I’ve read. I was both fascinated and terrified of them! N.K. Salustro has an extraordinary brain that managed to create one of my favorite animals I’ve heard of—Arkins. They’re kind of like flying pet dogs, so, of course, I NEED one. A quick search on Google just told me that K.N. Salustro’s booth at Bookcon was selling Arkin stuffed animals and now I’m super bummed that I missed out. Anyway, Arkins sound like the coolest pets ever.

Lissa is a very strong female character—something that I’m a huge fan of. I’ve noticed that many genres, especially science fiction, are dominated by books that feature almost no females, aside from female slaves. It’s very refreshing to read an adult sci-fi book that focuses on a female who is brave, powerful, and stands up to the male characters she encounters. The contrast between how caring and soft Lissa is towards her Arkin and how unmoving and cold she is to her Star Fed enemies really touched me. I wouldn’t change anything about the way her character was written.

I’m very glad I bought a copy of Chasing Shadows at BookCon this year. It was a pleasure to read and get a glimpse of the world inside K.N. Salustro’s mind. Lissa’s character will stay with me for a while, as strong female characters in adult science fiction are a rare occurrence for me. Thank you to the author for introducing me to a sc-fi lady who I ended up loving!

Review- Guapa

Guapa by Saleem Haddad

9781590517697Genre: Fiction
Format: Paperback
Publication date: March 8, 2016
Publisher: Other Press
Page count: 354
Star rating: 4/5

“This Arabness. This Muslimness. This was all new. A new marker of difference. A “thing” I had been my whole life. A thing which I had previously not given a second thought. But this was not just any old thing. No. This was a thing that killed and maimed and destroyed.”

Rasa is a gay man living in a Muslim country. He has previously been part of the protests and rebellion in his country, but at this point in his life, he is unsure where he stands. Rasa currently lives with his grandmother, who, to her horror, caught him and his lover in bed the night before. The two aren’t on speaking terms, as Rasa flees the house in the morning and his grandmother coincidently sleeps in abnormally late. Rasa is frantically texting his lover, begging that they try and make their relationship work. The responses he’s getting are short and unpromising. In the span of 24 hours, Rasa contemplates his identity—his homosexuality and Arabness—and his place in his country and the world.

Disclaimer: DO NOT READ THIS BOOK IF YOU GET SAD EASILY! Wow, Guapa made me feel depressed. I seriously spent an entire night moping around after I finished this book. It really took a toll on me. That being said, I still enjoyed it very much and want to share my thoughts with you all!

Guapa is a brilliant novel. It has so many components to it: a political revolution, a religious battle, the questioning of the narrator’s Arabness, and homophobia. I feel like I should read this book a second time in order to process everything. The part that grabbed my attention the most was Rasa’s internal dialogue about his homosexuality. He doesn’t like how his lover is one foot in and one foot out the door, ready to cover up all of his feelings for Rasa in order to conceal his homosexuality at the snap of a finger. His lover doesn’t like to spend time at the local drag bar, in fear that someone he knows will recognize him. Rasa is not like this, though he hides his sexuality, he is not as secretive as his lover. It was really interesting reading Rasa contemplate his relationship in his head. He feels like his lover has betrayed him, because he promised that last night wouldn’t be the last time they saw each other, but now he’s acting like he needs to think their relationship over. This fascinated me.

I liked how Guapa took place over a span of 24 hours. Much of the book was told in flashback format, though the writing was not confusing at all. I enjoy books that successfully tell a lot in a short timespan, like The Catcher in the Rye, because it proves that an author does not need to write about many events in order to make a book great. So much went on in Guapa, so much that I’m not sure that I understood it all. Rasa’s entire life, spanning from the death of his father when he was a child, through his cultural experimenting in college, and to the protests in present day, is described in this book. Yet, only 24 hours pass by in the 354 pages. Saleem Haddad did a fantastic job with this book.

I’m so glad I got this book from the Other Press booth at BookCon. I enjoyed getting to know Rasa and seeing him sort through his internal battles about his identities. Guapa taught me a lot of lessons about general racism and internalized racism; some of which I really needed to hear. Thank you, Saleem Haddad, for writing this wonderful book. I look forward to reading more titles from Other Press in the future.

Review- Blackmail, My Love

Blackmail, My love by Katie Gilmartin

Processed with VSCO with t1 presetGenre: Mystery
Format: Paperback
Publication date: November 18, 2014
Publisher: Cleis Press
Page count: 290
Star rating: 3.5/5

Before I start this review, I want to give a shout out to Cleis Press. I discovered them at the New York City Pride Festival, where they had their own booth. We exchanged information and they have been very kind in every email. I was gifted a copy of Blackmail, My Love in exchange for an honest review. Thank you, Cleis Press!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“No one else can know what is right for you. What’s right for you might seem wrong to someone else, and that’s okay, because maybe it’s wrong for them. But if your heart wants it, God put that desire there, and it is the right desire for you.”

Josie is on the search for her brother, Jimmy, who recently disappeared. Jimmy is a gay man serving on the San Francisco police force, who frequented local queer bars until the community thought he was ratting them out. As the search goes on, Josie experiments with the way she presents herself to others and becomes closer to people in gay nightlife of San Fran. Josie is determined to clear her brother’s name and get to the bottom of his unsolved missing persons case that has been suspiciously swept under the rug.

My favorite parts of Blackmail, My Love were the queer history lessons it gave. I learned a lot about what it was like to be gay in the 1950’s and I, now, very clearly recognize how lucky we are to live as minorities in the present world. I usually feel satisfied with myself while reading a book that is both educational and interesting, so Blackmail, My Love was a great choice.

This book was raw, it really told the story of 1950 San Francisco in a blunt manner. There were scenes of police officers abusing queer people, suicides committed because of homophobia, and gay hate crimes. For most of the book, Josie presents herself as a man by the name of Joe. (I’m using female pronouns because the back of the book uses them.) In the beginning chapters, Josie is still learning how to shop for and wear men’s clothing. I want to highlight a couple paragraphs in which Josie is looking for a new men’s suit. The employees in this store pretty quickly realize that Josie is not biologically a male and begin harassing her. Actually, it gets to a point when the readers know that Josie will be sexually assaulted if she gets trapped in this situation. The men say,

“Is that your big prick? Come on girly, lay it down and take a look at a real one.”

This line really shook me. This is the moment when the verbal exchange goes from verbally to sexually harassing a transgender person. I remember sticky tabbing this quotation because the turning point in this speaking scene is so blatant and…horrifying. The sticky note was also to signify something in the book that made me extremely sad. This portion of the book, in general, made me sad because I know that there are people who still, today, would say these things to a transgender individual. These types of people are on the news; they’re marching on college campuses and holding rallies in big cities. It’s very depressing.

Blackmail, My Love truly educated me on parts of queer history that I’m not well versed in. For example, I was not very familiar with gay bars paying cops not to raid them. I mean, bar owners really had to hand over envelopes of cash so police officers wouldn’t arrest people for just occupying space in a gay bar. I’m lucky to live in a time and place where people aren’t actively thrown in jails for nothing more than which bars they like to attend. In the 1950’s, people weren’t that lucky.

The actual story of this book wasn’t as interesting as the history lessons it provided. I was really captivated by learning about what life was like as a queer person 60 years ago. The solving of the mystery didn’t stand out very much to me, maybe because I was too engrossed by the other aspects of the novel.

I enjoyed this book a lot. The lessons it gave were crucial to my understanding of the privilege it is to live in a post 2010 United States. I want to thank Cleis Press for my copy of Blackmail, My Love. I’m extremely glad that I stopped by their booth at NYC Pride. If you’re looking for a captivating book to educate you on gay history, this is the one for you!