Advance Review: oh no

★★★★

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Alex Norris’s collection from the widely loved Webcomic Name is full of some of the best comics to date and several that have never been seen before. oh no (named for the comic’s running gag) is a unique take on “relatable” webcomics, framing daily disappointments in a truly hilarious way. Norris’s occasionally absurd art compliments this off-kilter collection perfectly. Continue reading “Advance Review: oh no”

Review: No Man of Woman Born

★★★★★39878322

Simply put, wow. I needed this book and I had no idea until I picked it up on a whim.

No Man of Woman Born is a collection of seven short stories, all featuring trans and nonbinary characters in epic fantasy settings. Aside from how overjoyed I was with the representation in this collection, I must take a moment to comment on Ana Mardoll’s incredible talent as a writer. In each brief story xie conjures an elaborate, fleshed out world that could support its own collection of tales. Though the world xie creates may be filled with strife and warfare, xer characters persevere. While some protagonists experienced hardship in their past, none suffer gruesome deaths or tragic fates, no characters are deadnamed, and misgendering and bigotry are minimal. Each story elegantly subverts well established tropes in the fantasy genre, and left me smiling each time it did. Mardoll puts the heart of this book best in xer own words:

The heroes and heroines in these pages aren’t special because they are trans; they are special and they are trans.

I loved this book from cover to cover and I highly recommend it to any lovers of fantasy, retellings, and queer fiction. Continue reading “Review: No Man of Woman Born”

Review: The Scarecrow and the Princess

★★★★☆The Scarecrow and the Princess

In Maggie Archer’s delightful tale, we follow the egotistical Prince Harvey. He has a lush life as the only child of the King and Queen of Avaria, a idyllic, plentiful land. Harvey is the archetypal prince: handsome, talented, charming, born to rule. He is highly thought of by the ladies and he knows it. The story picks up as Harvey’s ego brings ruin upon him. After humiliating the daughter of a powerful witch at the royal ball, Harvey is transformed into a scarecrow and cast out of his kingdom to an orchard in a land he has never seen before.

Lucky for Harvey, a princess frequents this particular orchard. As she relaxes in the beautiful countryside, she finds herself confiding her problems in her friend, the scarecrow.

Archer’s writing carries the story along swiftly and beautifully, and The Scarecrow and the Princess is free from many of the cliches that I’ve always felt tend to bog down children’s fairy tales. These characters and their reactions to Harvey’s predicament feel genuine. There is no magical kiss and a princess immediately whisked away, no children being married or parents that use their kids as political pawns. I loved the dynamic between the families of each kingdom and the rapport between Harvey and the princess. I recommend this highly to and as a gift for any middle-grade lovers of fantasy and fairy tales. Continue reading “Review: The Scarecrow and the Princess”

Review: The Incendiaries

★★★★☆ The Incendiaries

The Incendiaries is R.O. Kwon’s remarkable debut. With her incredible prose she tells the story of Will and Phoebe, their love and their demise. As Will wrestles with his losing his faith, Phoebe descends further into an extremist cult, trying to absolve herself of the guilt she lives with following her mother’s death.

I can already feel that this book will be in my thoughts for a long time.

It is hard to feel close to the characters in this book: Will, our narrator and the enigmatic Phoebe, defying understanding from the moment she enters Will’s life until the moment she leaves it. I was captivated by their stories and the incredible way Kwon conveys their journeys. Read this book for Kwon’s elegant writing, for the haunting story she weaves, and for the characters that you won’t be able to forget. Continue reading “Review: The Incendiaries”

Review: Crow Flight

★★☆☆☆

I’ll be the first to admit, I’m usually one of the last people to pick up YA novels, but the premise of Crow Flight caught my attention. The story follows the hyper-logical, highly intelligent programmer Regina “Gin” Hartson. Crow Flight begins as Gin starts her senior year of high school, gunning for Harvard and unwilling to let anything get in her way. In her exclusive computer modeling class, she is partnered with the new kid at school, Felix Gartner. Gin’s logic-based approach to life begins to falter as her relationship with Felix begins to flourish, until it all comes crashing down with a dark secret hiding in their data.

I enjoyed the third act of this book, but I made it there by sheer will alone. The characters initially felt like caricatures of teen stereotypes that have been played out in this genre. Relationships and conflicts in this book flow with ease at some points and seem forced and wedged in at others (e.g. Gin’s best friend is largely left out of the latter half of Crow Flight, as a result of a spat that hardly seemed large enough to cause a schism between two long time friends). I struggled with the pacing of this book as well. Much of the book passes slowly, uneventfully, with the final act jammed full of action I wish had been expanded upon or at least kicked off earlier in the book.

The saving grace of Crow Flight, for me, was Gin and Felix’s relationship. Despite the clichés, their friendship and the relationship that bloomed from it had a depth and genuine quality that is hard to capture. Overall, a solid YA read, but not for me. Continue reading “Review: Crow Flight”