5 stars · graphic novel · young adult

Check Please: the graphic novel that tastes like sunshine and smells like pie

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Check Please! Book 1: Hockey

author : ngozi ukazu

pages : [hardcover] 288

favorite character : bitty

summary :

Helloooo, Internet Land. Bitty here!

Y’all… I might not be ready for this. I may be a former junior figure skating champion, vlogger extraordinaire, and very talented amateur pâtissier, but being a freshman on the Samwell University hockey team is a whole new challenge. It’s nothing like co-ed club hockey back in Georgia! First of all? There’s checking. And then, there is Jack—our very attractive but moody captain.

A collection of the first half of the megapopular webcomic series of the same name, Check, Please!: #Hockey is the first book of a hilarious and stirring two-volume coming-of-age story about hockey, bros, and trying to find yourself during the best four years of your life.

review :

THIS BOOK WAS SO GOOD I NEED MORE IMMEDIATELY I HAVE NEVER FELT HAPPINESS LIKE THIS BEFORE MY HEART HAS GROWN THREE SIZES

Okay. So you may be thinking: Kayla, usually you hate contemporary things. Right you are. You may also be thinking; Kayla, I have absolutely no interest in hockey so I will not enjoy this adorable little graphic novel. You’re so very wrong.

Friends, the thing about contemporaries is that if I don’t care about the characters, there’s nothing there to keep me interested. No worldly stakes or fantasy settings or fantastical things. Check, Please has THE BEST CHARACTERS. Also, it’s hilarious. I snorted out loud while reading this book. As in I LAUGHED SO HARD THAT I SNORTED OUT THAT LAUGHTER BECAUSE I PHYSICALLY COULD NOT BREATHE.

Our main character, Bitty, is possibly the most charming, sweet, and lovely character to ever roam this earth. He loves hockey, used to ice skate competitively, bakes like five pies a day. He’s the best friend you could ever ask for. He’s also gay, and incredible rep as he’s sorting out who he is now that he’s in college.

In COLLEGE. We love a book that takes place in those woefully neglected formative years. Little Bitty starts out as a freshman and …. CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT. I’m not even typing full sentences anymore. I’m too excited.

I have had a sort of mild interest in hockey (as in, I enjoy watching it but never particularly seek it out). This book sort of assumes you’ll know nothing, so you won’t be lost when it comes to the sport and it isn’t doesn’t dominate ALL of the plot. It isn’t a sports book, just a book that happens to involve sports. Also Bitty and co look really great in their uniforms.

I cannot emphasize enough how much you need to read this book. It’s the kind that you’ll fly through and immediately want more. That will leave you warm and fuzzy (although it does discuss some more serious themes). IT’S SO GOOD. Read it. Read it.

5/5 stars

 

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5 stars · fiction · young adult

The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue: the bi rep we deserve

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The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue

Montague Siblings #1

author : mackenzi lee

pages : [hardcover] 513

favorite character : monty

memorable quote :

God bless the book people for their boundless knowledge absorbed from having words instead of friends.

summary :

Henry “Monty” Montague was born and bred to be a gentleman, but he was never one to be tamed. The finest boarding schools in England and the constant disapproval of his father haven’t been able to curb any of his roguish passions—not for gambling halls, late nights spent with a bottle of spirits, or waking up in the arms of women or men.

But as Monty embarks on his Grand Tour of Europe, his quest for a life filled with pleasure and vice is in danger of coming to an end. Not only does his father expect him to take over the family’s estate upon his return, but Monty is also nursing an impossible crush on his best friend and traveling companion, Percy.

Still it isn’t in Monty’s nature to give up. Even with his younger sister, Felicity, in tow, he vows to make this yearlong escapade one last hedonistic hurrah and flirt with Percy from Paris to Rome. But when one of Monty’s reckless decisions turns their trip abroad into a harrowing manhunt that spans across Europe, it calls into question everything he knows, including his relationship with the boy he adores.

review :

Maybe I should have saved this read for 20-bi-teen, because next year I’m determined to fill my reading goals with excellent bisexual representation, but I finally bought this one and I couldn’t resist. I think I held out for a week because I decided to just read the first chapter and instead read the entire book in 3 days. And what a glorious weekend it was.

The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue is amazing. I want to whisper sweet nothings to it but Monty, the main character, would probably be better at that. He’s the kind of bi mess I’ve literally been waiting for. I’ve done my waiting, in Azkaban, and this beautiful book is my reward.

As with so many books lately I went into this knowing next to nothing, just the way I like it. I knew it was historical fiction. I lived on the promise of good rep. My friend told me that she loved this book and I decided to trust her. The moral of both my story and Monty’s is to trust your friends, sometimes.

I mean, sure. Did Monty give me secondhand anxiety? Yes. Were there times I just wanted to grab his shoulders and shake some sense into him? Absolutely. Did I shriek at some parts of the story and probably make my family ever regret knowing me? Of course! See, on top of the disasters that extend from Monty, there’s an adventure and a half going on that puts everyone’s lives and reputations on the line.

Most of the time I had the feeling that these people would rather die than lose their reputations. (Cue the Hermione voice: “Or worse . . . Expelled.)

But I couldn’t get enough of it. These are characters that make you love them while you also want to shove them together and force them to behave. It’s funny but also sort of makes you want to cry. Monty is easily one of my favorite characters now–and if you give him a chance I’m still he’ll be one of yours.

5/5 stars

Me when I started this book:

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aka: I worry that the rep will be disappointing, quickly see that I had nothing to worry about, and then Monty does so many things that make me feel secondhand anxiety

Me when the book ended:

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aka: we all need to learn a little from Monty’s story and also I loved him so much I wasn’t ready for it to be over

My feelings about Monty:

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aka: if anything happens to him they’ll have to get through me first

adult · mythology

Circe by Madeline Miller (this witch has got it going on)

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Circe

author : madeline miller

pages : [hardcover] 393

favorite character : circe

memorable quote :

He showed me his scars, and in return he let me pretend that I had none.

summary :

In the house of Helios, god of the sun and mightiest of the Titans, a daughter is born. But Circe is a strange child—not powerful, like her father, nor viciously alluring like her mother. Turning to the world of mortals for companionship, she discovers that she does possess power—the power of witchcraft, which can transform rivals into monsters and menace the gods themselves.

Threatened, Zeus banishes her to a deserted island, where she hones her occult craft, tames wild beasts and crosses paths with many of the most famous figures in all of mythology, including the Minotaur, Daedalus and his doomed son Icarus, the murderous Medea, and, of course, wily Odysseus.

But there is danger, too, for a woman who stands alone, and Circe unwittingly draws the wrath of both men and gods, ultimately finding herself pitted against one of the most terrifying and vengeful of the Olympians. To protect what she loves most, Circe must summon all her strength and choose, once and for all, whether she belongs with the gods she is born from, or the mortals she has come to love.

review :

Circe is the badass female main character in Greek mythology we’ve all been waiting to hear more about. I think part of what makes her story amazing, at least in the way Madeline Miller tells it, is that she isn’t your conventional strong female character. She makes mistakes. She’s sad. She’s physically weak. She’s sort of a pushover. Until . . .

Well.

You’ll just have to read her story.

Circe embellishes on the mythology and, in my opinion, makes it better. Although there are stories and figures who appear that you’ll recognize if you know Greek mythology, Circe’s story is no longer being told through the viewpoint of heroes or gods. She’s telling her own tale, so you get to see her struggles, feel her emotions, and remember just how dumb the patriarchy is.

That’s a nice way of saying that men, particularly men in ancient times, were really not great. Not . . . even close. With, like, two exceptions.

The settings are vast and gorgeously described. The writing is beautiful and really reminiscent of the tone and mood set by myths and legends. I’ll read anything Madeline Miller writes.

Be warned, though: Circe will make you wish you had your own personal island where you can hide away from the world and also slaughter any assholes who come to bother you.

5/5 stars

 

 

5 stars · reread review · young adult

Reread Review: Strange the Dreamer (Lazlo Strange is mine)

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Strange the Dreamer

Strange the Dreamer #1
book 2: muse of nightmares

author : laini taylor

summary :

The dream chooses the dreamer, not the other way around—and Lazlo Strange, war orphan and junior librarian, has always feared that his dream chose poorly. Since he was five years old he’s been obsessed with the mythic lost city of Weep, but it would take someone bolder than he to cross half the world in search of it. Then a stunning opportunity presents itself, in the person of a hero called the Godslayer and a band of legendary warriors, and he has to seize his chance or lose his dream forever.

What happened in Weep two hundred years ago to cut it off from the rest of the world? What exactly did the Godslayer slay that went by the name of god? And what is the mysterious problem he now seeks help in solving?

The answers await in Weep, but so do more mysteries—including the blue-skinned goddess who appears in Lazlo’s dreams. How did he dream her before he knew she existed? And if all the gods are dead, why does she seem so real?

Welcome to Weep.

REREAD REVIEW :

Just as good this time around, and sort of fun because now I’m picking up on the foreshadowing on plot points that I missed my first time around. And, like last time, the very first and last chapters succeeded in making me cry. Lazlo is the best thing to ever happen to the world and no one can convince me otherwise.

Please enjoy this summary of my thoughts in GIF form, presented to you by Loki and Captain America.

me when I think about lazlo strange:

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me when I started this book:

yeeeaaahhh-loki

me when I finished this book:

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lazlo at the beginning of the book:

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lazlo at the end of the book:

giphy

5/5 STARS

1 star · Fantasy · fiction

Kill the Farm Boy: more like kill my interest in this book

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Kill the Farm Boy

authors : delilah s. dawson and kevin hearne

pages : [hardcover] 364

summary :

In an irreverent new series in the tradition of Terry Pratchett novels and The Princess Bride, the New York Times bestselling authors of the Iron Druid Chronicles and Star Wars: Phasmareinvent fantasy, fairy tales, and floridly written feast scenes.

Once upon a time, in a faraway kingdom, a hero, the Chosen One, was born . . . and so begins every fairy tale ever told.

This is not that fairy tale.

There is a Chosen One, but he is unlike any One who has ever been Chosened.

And there is a faraway kingdom, but you have never been to a magical world quite like the land of Pell.

There, a plucky farm boy will find more than he’s bargained for on his quest to awaken the sleeping princess in her cursed tower. First there’s the Dark Lord who wishes for the boy’s untimely death . . . and also very fine cheese. Then there’s a bard without a song in her heart but with a very adorable and fuzzy tail, an assassin who fears not the night but is terrified of chickens, and a mighty fighter more frightened of her sword than of her chain-mail bikini. This journey will lead to sinister umlauts, a trash-talking goat, the Dread Necromancer Steve, and a strange and wondrous journey to the most peculiar “happily ever after” that ever once-upon-a-timed.

review :

I’ve never DNF’d a book so fast. I’m sure that this is someone else’s cup of tea, but Kill the Farm Boy is not for me.

As something compared to The Princess Bride, possibly one of the greatest, funniest takes on fairytale tropes that still manages to tell a fantastic story, Kill the Farm Boy is nothing like that. I read slightly less than fifty pages and then, when I found out this had a sequel coming, decided to end things there. I have too many other books to read to commit to . . . this.

I’m genuinely confused because I feel like if this book was scaled back–like if the lewd jokes disappeared and the characters were aged down, this would work so well as a middle grade book. In all seriousness, I think readers would love that. Because in the 40-50 pages I read, there were at least a dozen poop and fart jokes. In an adult novel. Ooooooooookay.

Besides that, the rest of the humor wasn’t for me either. Like, there was a lady running around in an armored bikini, I think just because it would be ‘funny’ to have her do certain things in a bikini? The bulk of the rest of the jokes felt like I was reading a mash-up parody of The Three Stooges. And that sort of humor doesn’t work on the page.

That said, I’m sure someone will like this. But if this sort of humor isn’t for you–maybe skip it, because Kill the Farm Boy is more about the jokes than the plot anyway.

1/5 stars

 

5 stars · Fantasy · young adult

Muse of Nightmares: I’VE DONE MY WAITING FOR THIS! IN AZKABAN!

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Muse of Nightmares

Strange the Dreamer #2

author : laini taylor

pages : [hardcover] 514

favorite character : lazlo strange

memorable quote :

Wishes don’t just come true. They’re only the target you paint around what you want. You still have to hit the bull’s-eye yourself.

summary :

Sarai has lived and breathed nightmares since she was six years old.

She believed she knew every horror and was beyond surprise.

She was wrong.

In the wake of tragedy, neither Lazlo nor Sarai are who they were before. One a god, the other a ghost, they struggle to grasp the new boundaries of their selves as dark-minded Minya holds them hostage, intent on vengeance against Weep.

Lazlo faces an unthinkable choice—save the woman he loves, or everyone else?—while Sarai feels more helpless than ever. But is she? Sometimes, only the direst need can teach us our own depths, and Sarai, the Muse of Nightmares, has not yet discovered what she’s capable of.

As humans and godspawn reel in the aftermath of the citadel’s near fall, a new foe shatters their fragile hopes, and the mysteries of the Mesarthim are resurrected: Where did the gods come from, and why? What was done with thousands of children born in the citadel nursery? And most important of all, as forgotten doors are opened and new worlds revealed: Must heroes always slay monsters, or is it possible to save them instead?

Love and hate, revenge and redemption, destruction and salvation all clash in this astonishing and heart-stopping sequel to the New York Times bestseller, Strange the Dreamer.

review :

Have you ever dreamed up something wild and improbable? Something that isn’t just in your mind but in your heart–your soul? These books are for those dreamers. The ones working toward those dreams and the ones who’ve realized them. The ones who’ve had others achieve them not knowing how precious they should regard them, and the ones who’ve reached their dreams only to find they are not quite what they had hoped they would be.

Lazlo and Sarai are dreamers. Their dreams are beautiful and kind. But Muse of Nightmares explores what can shatter or twist them into mere shadows of themselves. Dreams and nightmares are not so far apart. Laini Taylor effortlessly wove this thread in with another big theme in this book: what makes the different between a hero and a villain? Seen from different perspectives, the “good guys” might not be so great. The villain might be able to save everyone. The hero can destroy them all. Laini Taylor’s cast of characters is so diverse and flawed and lovely. One of the things most impactful in her books is the fact that the characters never shy away from their true selves. They do not bend to fit the plot; there’s no breaking of character here. The characters, and the character arcs, are gloriously complicated.

The world of Strange the Dreamer and Muse of Nightmares is so rich and beautiful that it’s hard not to crave more of it. The world-building here is fantastic; Muse picks up on it right where Strange left off. And the connections that appear, linking this story back to another beloved one by Laini Taylor, are both fun and curious.

I can’t wait to see what she’ll write next.

These books are like sugar and dreams–they’re so rich and sweet and beautiful, that you want to take your time sinking into them so you won’t overindulge. Still, you’ll be tempted to devour them all at once.

Muse of Nightmares is a perfect conclusion to this duology. It’s gorgeous. It’s terrifying. And it’s complicated. It’s . . . strange. And if you haven’t read either book yet, you should. Then you too can dream up something wild and improbable.

5/5 stars

 

 

 

Fantasy · series · young adult

This Savage Song: so you say you want to read about an attractive violinist


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This Savage Song

Monsters of Verity #1

author : victoria schwab

pages : [paperback] 468

favorite character : august

memorable quote :

I mean, most people want to escape. Get out of their heads. Out of their lives. Stories are the easiest way to do that.

summary :

There’s no such thing as safe in a city at war, a city overrun with monsters. In this dark urban fantasy from author Victoria Schwaba young woman and a young man must choose whether to become heroes or villains—and friends or enemies—with the future of their home at stake. The first of two books.

Kate Harker and August Flynn are the heirs to a divided city—a city where the violence has begun to breed actual monsters. All Kate wants is to be as ruthless as her father, who lets the monsters roam free and makes the humans pay for his protection. All August wants is to be human, as good-hearted as his own father, to play a bigger role in protecting the innocent—but he’s one of the monsters. One who can steal a soul with a simple strain of music. When the chance arises to keep an eye on Kate, who’s just been kicked out of her sixth boarding school and returned home, August jumps at it. But Kate discovers August’s secret, and after a failed assassination attempt the pair must flee for their lives.

review :

Part of me loves to read books years after their release. On my own time, with no rush, so I can fall right into the story.

The other half of me wonders why I didn’t read this years ago.

Okay. It was partly because I thought this was a contemporary book, and I don’t normally read contemporary. I KNOW. You’re thinking, Kayla, read a summary some day why don’t you. I don’t know how it got in my brain that this was, like, a light romance between some girl and a musician. Maybe because the cover looks like a contemporary?

I’M HERE TO SET THE RECORD STRAIGHT. This is definitely a fantasy, sort of dystopian fantasy (but not in the overdone, mid-2000s sort of way). This Savage Song is beautiful. The story is told in two points of view and at first there was that thing happening where I preferred reading one over the other. Then we got to know the characters, their pasts and motivations, and I fell for both of them. Hard.

This Savage Song is one of those fantasies where the less you knowing going into it, the better, because the world-building here is so great that you don’t need to know anything in advance. Sure, I would die within a day if I lived in this place, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t fun to imagine it.

Also, this book is a little . . terrifying. And I loved it. And I realized that I need more slightly horrifying protagonists in my life, who are really pure cinnamon roll characters underneath. That dynamic will never get old.

All said, I can’t recommend this book enough. I finally got around to it because of a friend’s recommendation, so let me be that friend to you: Read. It. Now.

5/5 stars