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.

Review- Our Own Private Universe

Our Own Private Universe by Robin Talley

Processed with VSCO with t1 presetGenre: YA fiction
Format: Hardcover
Publication date: January 31, 2017
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Page count: 384
Star rating: 3.5/5

Aki knows she’s bisexual, but she’s never actually had a girlfriend. Still, she knows that she likes girls. The only person who knows is her best friend Lori, as she’s afraid to come out to her religious parents. Aki and Lori spend their summer away at a mission trip in Mexico, held by their church. There, Aki meets Christa and they immediately click. The two girls are a great match, but the constrictions of their religious group force them to lie, hide, and cover up their feelings. Aki and Christa could have something extraordinary, but are they willing to make that sacrifice for each other?

I had some mixed feeling about Our Own Private Universe, but, ultimately, the positives outweighed the negatives. One extremely important topic this book highlights is safe sex. I haven’t read another F/F book, young adult or adult, that touches on safe sex. Aki goes out of her way to find female condoms, which I thought was so cool. I bet the teen and early twenty’s audience that Robin Talley is aiming for might be a bit uninformed about safe sex, the importance of condoms, and protection against STDs in queer female relationships. I was pleasantly surprised when Aki started thinking about how she would obtain dental dams. For this reason, I would 100% recommend this book to queer females who are looking to see themselves represented in literature.

Another awesome thing about Own Our Private Universe is that it features two women who are both interested in men and women. Aki is bisexual and not confused. The stereotype that bisexual people are merely confused is harmful because it erases their identities and invalidates their feelings. In addition, sometimes books about marginalized demographics are harmful for individuals who are part of those demographics to read (they’re triggering, disrespectful, or just not factual). This is definitely a book with bisexual representation that is safe, considerate, and realistic of bi struggles. Often, books that trivialize LGBT lives are written by straight, cisgender authors. It was awesome to read a book written by a queer author.

After I finished Our Own Private Universe, I skimmed a few reviews. I found one that pointed out something that unsettled me in the novel and I think it is worth mentioning. Although Aki is not white, her church’s mission trip sent a message of a white savior complex. Wikipedia defines this as, “a white person who acts to help non-white people, with the help in some contexts perceived to be self-serving”. I believe that Robin Talley should have tried to educate her readers about the harm these self-serving intentions can cause. I felt a little disappointed in this aspect of the book.

Overall, I think Own Our Private Universe was a realistic, healthy, respectful way of looking at a bisexual girl discovering herself. The cast was diverse, but I believe some of the racial implications of the mission trip could have been clarified. I will recommend this book to young, queer women who are looking for literature that features characters like themselves. Our Own Private Universe introduced many topics that other LGBTQ YA books neglect, which was exciting. I just found out Robin Talley is supposed to have a novel coming out in 2018 and I can hardly wait!

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- An Unkindness of Ghosts

An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon

51SaGVChQwL._SX332_BO1,204,203,200_Genre: Science fiction
Format: Paperback (advanced copy)
Publication date: October 3, 2017
Publisher: Akashic Books
Page count: 340
Star rating: 4.5/5

Aster lives in the lower-decks of a spaceship that is flying through the cosmos in search of a safe planet. Although she lives in this ‘underworld’, a place where inhabitants are considered almost sub-human, she is assistant to the Surgeon. The Surgeon is of the highest rank, the man who solves all the ship’s medical problems, and one of Aster’s best friends. Although the two make an odd pair, they are the perfect match. Aster is teased for not being feminine enough and Theo, the Surgeon, is called names like ‘sissy’ and much worse. Not only is she busy acting as a medical assistant, Aster is also on a mission to figure out what happened to her mom, who died the day she was born. She knows the secrets are hidden somewhere on the spaceship, she just has to piece all the clues together.

An Unkindness of Ghosts opens with a scene portraying Aster amputating a young child, Flick’s, leg. Gender identity is one of the first things mentioned in the book, which was very interesting and exciting. Flick comes from a low-deck where children are referred to with gender neutral pronouns. Even though, on Aster’s deck, children are assigned feminine pronouns, she does not consider Flick’s identity weird or strange in any way; it’s just the way Flick is. This automatic acceptance of someone’s identity, despite it being different than the one Aster grew up around, is amazing. Someday, I hope it’s the norm to respect other’s identities without second thought, just as Aster did. I already knew I was going to love An Unkindness of Ghosts from the first few pages.

If you’ve read any of my other reviews, you probably know that strong female characters are my FAVORITE. Reading about brave women who stand their ground in the face of evil that is bigger than them gives me hope that, in the future, well-known books won’t mostly feature male protagonists. I’ve found that science fiction, especially, is male dominated. For this reason, I am so thrilled about An Unkindness of Ghosts, because Aster is the powerful sci-fi lady that I’ve been waiting for. She was such a pleasure to get to know. I found this book comparable, in a strange way, to The Long Way to A Small, Angry Planet, which is one of my all-time favorite books. Both of these novels highlight space women who don’t take any BS from their opponents. I absolutely love that.

An Unkindness of Ghosts is a science fiction book that deserves to be on ‘must read’ lists for feminism in sci-fi. I would recommend it to anyone looking for a nice science fiction novel with a bad-ass female protagonist and interesting commentary about sexuality and gender identity. Thank you to the publisher for sending me an advanced copy of the book after I expressed my interest in it. I enjoyed it very much and I won’t forget Aster and her adventures.

Review- Elmina’s Fire

Hey everyone! Sorry for the delay between reviews. I got really sick last weekend and it set me way, way behind. But, I’m back with a review request I got from Selby Ink a few months ago. I’m so excited to share my thoughts with you all!

~~~~~~~~

Elmina’s Fire by Linda Carleton

51mICVoYh3L._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_Genre: Fiction
Format: Paperback
Publication date: June 13, 2017
Publisher: She Writes Press
Page count: 330
Star rating: 3.5/5

Elmina’s mind, full of guilt, torments her daily. Her father raised her as a Catholic, but didn’t have the funds to set her up with a husband and sent her to live with the Cathars, who oppose Catholicism. Elmina respects the Cathars, since they treat her kindly, but feels like a traitor living in a house run by people who don’t agree with her views. The Catholics and the Cathars are in the midst of a war that’s only getting worse and Elmina feels like she’s in the middle of it. Elmina has urges to run away from the generous people who have become like her family, in hopes of finding refuge within the religion she’s always loved. Living in a house full of those who do not respect her faith is too much guilt for such a young girl to handle.

I like Elmina a lot—her character, her voice, her mind. Her faith and loyalty to Catholicism is very admirable. The internal hell that her mind resides in is one I’ve seen in many stories featuring strong females that are faced with big obstacles, like Elmina. She certainly tackles the war within her body and mind with determination not often found in women that young. Elmina’s depression is very evident in the tone and choice of words that she uses; it made me very sad to hear such hopelessness. The book reads as a letter to her God, whom she has tried so hard to devote her life to, but been faced with opposition to almost all her young life. I wanted so badly to hold Elmina’s hand and tell her that it is possible to calm the battles within your mind; it just takes practice and hard work. The entire book felt so raw, it really touched me.

Elmina’s Fire is the first book I’ve read that talks about the type of guilt that can be associated with religion and questioning one’s faith. On the other hand, this book also sheds light on how healing and uniting religion can be. Elmina experiences both of these extremities. The pain and shame she feels while living among Cathars is enormous, and yet, the sense of community she feels when surrounded by Catholics is also huge. This book definitely showed me some aspects of religion that I had never been exposed to before.

Even though I liked this book a lot, I have one critique. For me, Elmina’s Fire was a little slow in the beginning. I could tell that the pace was going to pick up closer to 1/3 the way in, but the first 50 pages or so were hard to get through. I’m very glad I stuck with the book, because I ended up enjoying it. I do wish the beginning of the book had been as interesting as the rest of it, though.

I want to give a big thank you to Selby Ink for the giving me a copy of this wonderful book they represent in exchange for an honest review. I enjoyed getting to know Elmina and being exposed to aspects of Christianity that I hadn’t known before. Empowered, brave female characters are my favorite, and Elimina is certainly one of them.

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!