Topside by J.N. Monk

Imagine living your whole life not knowing what the world outside is like? Then imagine that you royally messed up and you have to go outside to fix your mistake! In short, that is what Topside is about. Jo, a young maintenance technician makes a mistake that destabilizes her planets core and must go on an adventure to find Oblexium, the only substance that can fix her error. Jo comes face to face with a scam artist, a shapeshifter, and pair of bounty hunters in the form of a shark in a dress and a sentient lightbulb. Jo’s adventure gets complicated when agents from the interior, her home, start pursuing her with the thought that she has been abducted.

What I most enjoyed about Topside is that Jo finds friends in the most unlikely of places. Funnily enough, she stumbles upon these friends due to her likeability and sheer ignorance of the world beyond the interior. Monk creates a world of danger but also of acceptance. Jo, while skeptical, accepts these odd people around her for who they are and forms an interesting little gang of friends. I thought that it had a really good message for a kid’s graphic novel.

Also, Jo is an interesting and fun protagonist. She has this aura of exhaustion from the constant work, but she also has an enthusiasm that makes her enjoyable. The balance for this character is very good and it made me care for her. She is honestly just trying her hardest to fix her mistake and help her family move up in the world. She is an underdog and I liked her.

The pacing in this graphic novel, while quick, feels perfect for the target audience. It moves quickly enough to hold kids attention while also having enough detail for an adult to enjoy. One minute your following Jo as she wanders through an apocalyptic style town the next your in hot pursuit following the interior agents, it really holds your attention.

Something unique about Topside that I particularly enjoyed was the not so antagonistic antagonist. He is just a guy forced to do a job he doesn’t want to do, and he is forced to jump through a bunch of ridiculous bureaucratic hoops. He’s comical and seems to embody the tedious nature of office work and adulthood. I don’t hate him and I think that there should be more “bad guys” like him in children’s books.

I also want to praise Harry Bogosian’s illustrations in Topside, they are gorgeous. Jo’s appearance reminds me a little of Steven Universe, I’ve mentioned that show before and honestly I’ve only seen a few episodes, I think it’s great.

I give Topside a 5/5, I was really charmed by this one. As always thank you to NetGalley and also a thank you to Lerner Publishing Group, without them this review wouldn’t be possible.


Aquaman Vol. 1: Unspoken Water by Kelly DeConnick

While many felt let down by the recent release of the blockbuster film of Aquaman, this graphic novel is here to save the image of the hero altogether. With the rising popularity of the gold and green clad hero comes a graphic novel that expands on Aquaman’s origin story in a new and beautiful way. This is the type of story that should be featured on the silver screen.

Aquaman is a vulnerable hero in this story, he has lost his memory and his life has been saved by strangers. The island he has washed up on has been experiencing intense hardships, and it is up to Aquaman to save the day. He is an unlikely hero facing up against a powerful goddess who desires to turn the world to salt.

One aspect of this story I really enjoyed was the use of a new mythology, one I had never experienced before. We are introduced to old gods, then even older gods. It seems that this universe is built on something entirely different than we have read in comics yet, it is fresh and introduces us to a new version of Genesis, at least that was how I read it. It really builds onto its own history and creates a setting that can only expand from here, I imagine that history will only get richer and deeper as the series continues.

I also have to praise the illustrator highly, Robson Rocha is fantastic. The imagery is beautiful and while reminiscent of old school comics stick to the high quality of newer graphic novels. Rocha creates a vibrant world for Aquaman to explore. We see beaches and the depths of the ocean, from humans to gods the illustrations are impeccable. The illustrations only add depth to the story and creates ideal settings for the narrative.

DeConnick switches up how we envision Aquaman, he is not some silly hero that can speak to fish. He cries out for the aid of the ocean and he does receive it, he is not just some commander of fish but truly a hero that works in sync with the marine life around him. I think this version of Aquaman is definitely different than what I was expecting while still resembling the original hero, the newness does not lose the original character just enhances it.

The story felt more serious than I was expecting and it was a good thing. We do not need any more silly heroes in tights and underwear, we need heroes with emotional depth and rich backstory, DeConnick delivers.

I give this one 5/5, I truly enjoyed this graphic novel regardless of how skeptical I was in the beginning.

Also a huge thank you to NetGalley and DC Comics for allowing me the opportunity to review this graphic novel.

Voyages In The Underworld Of Orpheus Black by Marcus and Julian Sedgwick

One detail left out of the original tale of Orpheus is that he is reincarnated over and over, at least in this novel he is. In Voyages (shortened for my sanity) we follow an artist named Harry Black who is a conscientious objector to World War II. Through his “cowardly” choice to not paricipate in the war effort he loses the affection of his brother and father, thus sending him on a path of redemption aimed at his brother. Harry yearns to rekindle the friendship he had with his brother prior to the war, and he wants to create an illustrated book with his brother as the writer. When asked about the book Harry says, “I want to do a big illustrated book, with words and images combined; make a kind of warning. About how we’re just going to become more efficient at killing each other unless we work out how to develop our better selves.” I found this explanation very self aware because that is exactly what Voyages does. But, soon after, disaster strikes and the pub where Harry’s brother Ellis was drinking is bombed by the Germans, and Harry is sent on the search of his life to recover Ellis at all costs, Harry knows that his brother has to have lived.

Voyages is an interesting mixture of fiction and poetry, often swirling together and creating a lyrical tale that meanders down a sad path of loneliness. I am not what I would call a poetry expert nor enthusiast but I found the poetic aspects to be very beautiful. It sung its way through this story and really turned it into a piece of artwork. While on the topic of artwork, the pieces of illustration that I had access to in this ARC, while limited, were beautiful. Alexis Deacon did an amazing job of brinigng Voyages to life. The illustrations depict a world similiar but not entirely our own, a mirror of what our world looks like but with an almost sinister twist. Every illustration filled me with anxiety but also wonder.

Something that really caught my attention was the ever looming presence of Orpheus. He is constantly near by, playing the fiddle or infecting the town with his music. You can expect to see a reference of him around every corner. His music haunts Harry as he recognizes it but can’t place where he has heard it. This detail gave me something familiar in an unfamiliar setting, I had a detail to orient myself by.

My only real bone to pick with this book is that it is extremely slow paced and a bit difficult to get through. I believe I have had access to this book since May or June and I am just now finishing it. It’s not that this book is uninteresting it just didn’t captivate me like other novels, and like I previously stated I’m not really one for poetry, which is a personal issue but an issue none-the-less. This book took too long to develop and by the time you get to the interesting pieces you’re a little bit lost and it starts making less sense. I was also a little bit lost on the ending, I had a hard time understanding who was alive and who was dead, that made it hard for me to feel any kind of satisfaction.

I give Voyages a 3/5 stars, while truly beautiful it had some flaws that were hard for me to forgive. If you love poetry and a good mythological retelling I urge you to give Voyages a try.

Thank you to NetGalley for allowing me access to this book and thank you to Candlewick Press for granting me permission to read and review Voyages.

Why Does Young Adult Literature Get A Bad Wrap?

I spent three years working at a bookstore and I am an avid YA consumer and I have noticed a trend amongst the reading community. Young Adult lit seems to be treated like a second class genre. I had what some people might call “real” adults come up to me to buy YA and say things like, “This isn’t for me, this is for my daughter.” or my personal favorite, “I don’t read this junk it’s for kids, this is a present.” My question is why? Why do people feel the need to justify YA purchases, is it so bad to read something aimed at teen to twenty year olds? And what does this say about how we treat the YA demographic? Some of the most powerful books I have ever read qualify as YA. I even read middle grade novels, in fact Harry Potter and Percy Jackson are two of my favorites, and they are aimed at middle schoolers, yet, I am not ashamed.

This also poses another interesting question, why don’t adults feel like they need to justify purchasing books like Harry Potter but God forbid they buy John Green? I honestly saw more older adults buying YA than teenagers and I didn’t see a problem with it. A lot of adults also confessed to me that YA was their guilty pleasure. I was once told something very interesting by one of my coworkers, she said to me that she didn’t like the term guilty pleasure because it insinuates that you should feel guilt for something that brings you happiness. I have never thought of that term the same way. She was right, why should we feel guilty over the things that bring us happiness?

I also don’t like bashing particular YA books, not even Twilight. I understand that Twilight can be viewed as promoting unhealthy relationships, but I am not in the business of judging people’s tastes. There are definitely YA books that I don’t enjoy, but I will never judge a person by their tastes. Plus people really should think about the wide range of books that fall into the YA category, we have anything from Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson to Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas. How could someone consider a category with such a wide range of different styles of literature childish?

In my journey of trying to understand why people hate the YA genre so deeply I stumbled upon a deeply concerning article titled, Against YA by a Ruth Graham. Graham’s assertion is that you can read what you want but you should be embarrassed if you read something written for children. My first issue with this smear campaign is that there is a ton of “children’s” literature that is highly respectable and sophisticated. For example, The Hobbit was written for J.R.R. Tolkien’s children as a fairytale, but this is on most “Top 100 Books To Read In A Lifetime” lists. Do you think scholars who adore The Hobbit are ashamed to read something written for Tolkien’s children? Probably not. My next issue with this article is the example Graham used as a representation for the entirety of the YA category. Graham picks The Fault In Our Stars, which to be honest I absolutely hated. But, I have the brain capacity to recognize that this book means something to people, and probably for a good reason. Also, the author has a weird bone to pick with the typically concrete endings in YA, Graham seems unhealthily obsessed with the idea that more YA needs to end in ambiguity, as if that is what makes great literature. I hate ambiguity in a novel and I always have, say what you mean or why freaking say it? I read my fair share of books in the literary “canon” and I can tell you that a lot of them are boring and outdated, not to mention don’t encompass a lot more than one major demographic. I hated reading Toni Morrison and Shakespeare, it is not the stuff for me. Nevertheless I got my English degree and read all the canonical shit OSU could throw at me. Graham doesn’t take into consideration haunting stories like The Book Thief, which was shelved as YA where I worked and quite frankly has been one of the most powerful books I have ever read.

I guess I am here to tell anyone who is similar to me that you should not be ashamed to read what you like. Older generations are constantly bitching that people don’t read enough anymore, so get out and read. But, most importantly, read what you like or you will grow to loathe reading.

I am curious to hear someone else’s take on this. Do you agree with me? Or do you think that YA is something that “real” adults need to move away from? I personally love this genre and I’d love to hear from both sides. Let me know in the comments.

The Weight Of A Soul by Elizabeth Tammi

How far would you go to save your sister? Would you kill a stranger? A friend? In Tammi’s novel The Weight Of A Soul Fressa is faced with those questions when her sister mysteriously winds up dead in the forest by her village. Set in the times of vikings we are thrown into a plot that is ever more complicated due to the mysterious Norse gods that Fressa meets along her journey.

Fressa is given the near impossible task to find a soul that weighs the same as her sister’s so that Hela can retrieve her from Valhalla. Time is running out as Fressa’s parents, the aloof chief and chieftess of the village pressure Fressa to marry her sister;s betrothed. Fressa struggles with the loss of her sister and the fear of betraying her love,

I struggled deciding how I was going to rate this novel. I will be honest the pacing is very slow and it was not the grand adventure I expected. Almost the entirety of the novel takes place in the small village where Fressa lives. To me it was a little bit boring to stay in the same place for so long, the same setting played over and over. For a fantasy novel to really stick out the setting has to be unique in some way, I didn’t feel a particular draw to the landscape. I kept waiting for this novel to take me to places I had never seen, and the one place it does take you to is seriously lacking in the detail department. So that was a little disappointing.

Something Tammi handles really well is grief. When Fressa finds her sister dead you can feel the Earth shattering pain that Fressa feels and you can see her depression thicken around her like a cloud. This is important because it helps us to understand Fressa’s descent as a human, she becomes a cold-hearted killer. She sinks low and is constantly trying to work out who is worthy to take her sister’s place in Valhalla, strangers become enemies and friends become potential victims. Everywhere Fressa turns a deadline is looming and her desperation grows.

In my head I went back and forth about whether I thought that the Norse mythology was used effectively or not. The gods play an important role in this novel and the symbolism is outstanding, but to me the gods themselves felt a little flat. Most history/mythology buffs know who Hela, Loki, and Odin are so I can understand why Tammi may have lightened their character development, but to me they came off as uninteresting. I was very excited for the mythological angle, but it left me wanting.

As I dug through this novel I was constantly debating with myself over whether this book is a 4 star rating or not, and the ending almost convinced me. The ending really wraps the story together and gives it a warm feeling, but it was also a little bit predictable. I absolutely did not dislike this novel, in fact it was quite good, but it had some boxes that needed filling to satisfy my reading expectations and it didn’t do that.

This book is a solid 3/5 stars. If there was a continuation of some kind I would read it out of curiosity, but I won’t be adding it to the top of my TBR pile.

July 2019 Recap

I was supposed to do this post yesterday but my son turned 5 months and we decided to take him to the beach for the first time, I mean look at that cute little face! Can you blame me for slacking off? Also he loves sand! Anyway, July was the first month where I was really productive. I did several reviews and if you missed them do not fret I will be covering them in this post!

To kick off my July posting I reviewed Teen Titans: Raven by Kami Garcia. I was impressed by Garcia’s adaptation of the Raven character and I think we can all look forward to what is to come next. I gave this graphic novel a 4/5 stars. Be sure to check out the new Raven and her powerful adopted family.

Next I reviewed The Hunger by Alma Katsu. Possibly the most impressive book I read this month, it was haunting and beautiful in a way that can’t be explained, you just have to read it. I gave The Hunger a whopping 5/5 stars! Also look forward to another review of a book by Alma Katsu I will be doing titled The Deep!

Next up was the popular NetGalley title Mooncakes by Suzanne Walker. While I understood peoples draw to this book and its popularity it did not do it for me. I felt like a debut graphic novel for a series should have been more impressive. It was a lot of rinse and repeat. But never-the-less I gave Mooncakes 3/5 stars because the illustrations were beautiful and it attempted to do things I hadn’t seen done before.

After that we talked about Small Spaces by the popular fantasy writer Katherine Arden. This middle grade novel really impressed me, it was spooky and meaningful. Small Spaces squeezed 4/5 stars bordering closely on 5. I have actually requested the next title in the series titled Dead Voices, fingers crossed that I am approved to read that one!

Kingdom Cold by Brittni Chenelle was up next. This love story had so many ups and downs I struggled to stop reading. With an ending that shook me to my core Kingdom Cold earned itself a 4/5 stars. This novel is sure to anger you and make you fall in love all at once, check this one out.

Last week I reviewed Crown Of Coral And Pearl by Mara Rutherford. You will absolutely regret it if you miss this one! Rutherford’s YA Fantasy is beautiful and entertaining beyond what I expected. Crown Of Coral And Pearl was the second book of July that earned itself a 5/5 stars. This book releases on August 27th, you must get your hands on it if you are a lover of YA.

Lastly we covered The Lure Of The Ring by Alan James Strachen and Janet Coster. An unusual pick on my part, this book explores addiction and unanswered question buried within Tolkien’s The Lord Of The Rings. While interesting it was a little wordy, if you are interested in a deeper understanding of Tolkien’s work it may be worth it to check this one out. This one earned a 3/5 stars.

A huge thank you to my followers for sticking with me and also joining me this month. Hopefully you are enjoying this as much as I am, and as always keep your eyes out for my next posts. I have some good stuff for the month of August!

What Makes Me Read A Book?

1. The number one aspect of a book that draws me in are developed and interesting characters. When I pick up a book and read the first few pages and the characters seem flat I will put it back down. I have a large interest in character arcs, I should be able to see how a character has changed from the beginning to end. I will almost always knock down a rating of a book by a star if it contains cardboard cutout characters. I hate that. It is completely within the realm of possibility to create depth in even minor characters. If characters fall flat it’s because there was a lack of care in their crafting.

2. I am a sucker for descriptive landscapes. That is probably why I like The Lord of The Rings so much. I want to be able to plant myself in the scene. It’s hard to do that if the setting is under developed. I want to feel the grass between my toes and hear the river gurgling in the distance. If I am planted in a field with no description than I am not truly seeing what the author was seeing, I am not where the characters are. When I write I typically go over a descriptive section at least ten times, adding and subtracting detail until you can see where my characters are and why it matters. I feel like setting has a purpose and can really add quality to literary works.

3. A good antagonist. Who doesn’t just love to hate a blood boiling antagonist. One of the bad guys that make you want to jump into the pages and just slap them into next week. A good antagonist matters because they have to be a match for the protagonist(s). If they are so-so and your protagonist is a total badass the balance will be off.

4. Finally, stakes. I have to feel like something is on the line. Whether it is tangible or not, there has to be something for each character to lose. I guess you could wrap this into character development, but for me stakes are one of those pieces that not every author nails and feel like a different entity. Stakes influence behavior and choices, they have to be high but not too high, and if stakes are low than why read it? I dont care if Joey may never get his red balloon back, but I do care whether Joey finds his long lost lover in the cave of doom. See what I mean?

What makes you read a book? Do you share a lot of the same criteria I do? Let me know in the comments.