Book Review #79: Time Heist (CatNinja #2)

Time Heist by Matthew Cody (160 pages)

This series is so much fun, but I have come to expect great things from Epic!. They really know how to make a fun, engaging story for all ages. There is a super fun plot twist that I wasn’t even expecting that impressed me. I love this little series so much! It has humor, heart, tension, action, and a ninja cat called Cat Ninja (there’s a difference).

Sometimes, in stories with animals as the main characters the humans are a drag. But not the case here! The kids in the story have just as much character as the animals and are still, realistically, coming to terms with their parents’ divorce. And if it speaks to more of this story’s excellence, the main character, Cat Ninja never speaks outside of facial expressions, and it doesn’t hinder anything. I liked him as a character.

The cast of quirky heroes and villains all have some snazzy designs, and I can’t wait to see more of Thomas’ creations. Hoot was cute as can be!

Book Review #78: Dancing on the Edge of the Roof

Dancing on the Edge of the Roof by Sheila Williams (240 pages)

I liked this! It’s so easy to read, and I loved the progress from Juanita always downing herself to allowing herself to grow and discover her own desires.

I didn’t like the movie adaption at first, but, since reading this, I think they did a good job translating the story to screen. However, I loved the backstories (I had no idea the lady in the movie was Junita’s sister, Juanita had a brother, and the story with Eddie is much more impactful here). The love scene is sensual and beautiful unlike the movie (sorry, not sorry). I wished they would have included the dancing in the rain bit. That scene was more romantic than the entire movie.

Here, the story’s more about Juanita’s journey as it arguably should be, but I liked how the movie focused more on Nita and Jess and that Juanita didn’t have to be convinced about her big decision.

Reminder: Yolk’s on Me out now!

Book Review #77: Henchgirl

Henchgirl (Expanded version) by Kristen Gudsnuk (336 pages)

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Man, Henchgirl is SO MUCH fun. I LOVE superheroes or anything that deals with people with powers, but this one deals with a misunderstood supervillain.

The humor is quirky and stupid and doesn’t take itself too seriously; it also gets a bit dark every now and then. There’s a family dinner that is just hilariously awkward.

I loved Mary and her post-college vibes and craziness, no-nonsense Fred, and Mary’s roommates. There’s also some Spanish sprinkled here and there.

Another thing I love about this author is that she always manages to slip in a magical anime girl somewhere lol.

Reminder: Yolk’s on Me out now!

Book Review #76: Besties: Work it Out

Besties by Kayla Miller
look at that cover!

Besties: Work it Out by Kayla Miller, Jefferey Canino, and Kristina Luu (216 pages)

This was gold! Besties: Work It Out impressed me with its themes and thoughtful characters. I loved seeing a kid acknowledge how hard her mom was working and wanting to take care of her.

The story showed perfectly the deeper awareness you get as a kid when you realize the weight of adult responsibilities and MONEY. Some of us discover it earlier depending on our circumstances, but the conclusion is usually the same.

Chanda and Beth were so much fun together. They were chaotic and quirky but loved each other. The artwork was better than ever. The lines were sleeker (I see you Clip Studio Paint), and the color direction was phenomenal.

Something I also enjoyed was the fresh take on the “lying, and I hope they don’t find out” trope. It didn’t end as I expected.

I’m always game to read more from the Click series and now Besties! Definitely worth reading.


Reminder: Yolk’s on Me out now!

Book Review 75#: Amelia: Castaway Commander

“OK, so you are crazy.”

“Nothing wrong with that. Helps the genius come out.”

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Amelia: Castaway Commander by Betsy Peterschmidt (288 pages)

This one’s very tropey, but again tropes aren’t bad. It’s how you use them. Amelia was boring. I’ve just seen the (rich?) girl who wants to prove herself to her powerful father and runs away too many times. But I didn’t see anything unique to Amelia to make me root for her.

I liked the twin brothers, Fyn and Rastor, (they’re like the Wright brothers in a way) though they’re flat besides their love of rambunctiousness, science, and engineering. I know they lived in the Jungle, but why were they always barefoot??? We get a little preteen romance, but I don’t know what endeared Amelia to one of the brothers. Probably off-screen happenings though crushes/puppy love need no rhyme or reason.

The artwork was lovely (The watercolors were used masterfully) though, sometimes, the direction of scenes and word bubbles got downright confusing.

I think this one will strike a nice chord for kids who like aviation.

Book Review #74: I Am Not Starfire

“We hold our parents’ hope for a new future, but that future isn’t necessarily going to be what our parents thought it would be.”

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I Am Not Starfire by Mariko Tamaki and Yoshi Yoshitani (208 pages)

This is more rambling than a coherent review.

Mandy wasn’t very likable as a main character. But it is very realistic that some teens are self-centered, don’t get along with their parents because of irrational things, and feel outcast and full of angst. Add in the layer of not wanting to be in a beautiful, accomplished superhero mom’s shadow. Her behavior is understandable, but it could turn some readers off.

In real life, an older Mandy would look back, embarrassed, at her younger self’s behavior. Many times (60% – 70% probably) I thought my parents were embarrassing me and ruining my life, and, now, I realize how immature I was being. Anyway, I get Mandy was a brat and didn’t communicate well, but I didn’t hate the story.

In addition, Mandy has a conflict about life after high school. She has test anxiety and does not want to go to college. Nothing wrong with that, but the topic of learning a trade never came up. Or what was the cause of the anxiety. It’s like it magically disappears, so I don’t get why it, the anxiety portion, was a part of the plotline. [spoiler]

Onto positives, I enjoyed the flat artwork and Lincoln, Mandy’s bestfriend, and Claire (love when the popular kids have depth or aren’t all stereotypical) weren’t bad. Starfire looked good! I love that you could see she was trying with Mandy. [spoiler]

Review with spoilers: here

Reminder: Yolk’s on Me out now!

Book Review #73: Black Buck

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Black Buck by Mateo Askaripour (388 pages)

For this story, I think the humor would translate better on film, whether TV or movie. It comes off dry, awkward, and slightly offensive in writing. I get where the jokes are coming from; it’s like The Office meets Sorry to Bother You meets Boondocks vibes, but the execution is all over the place.

Darren/Buck was insufferable. It’s hard to root for him when he starts talking to everyone like dirt. Majority of the Sumwunner guys act like frat boys meets Wallstreet, which is intended but still jarring. Rhett was somewhat interesting, but I hated Clyde soooo much. If you read the story, you’ll want to kick his teeth in too.

In addition, the female characters outside of the mom and some aspects of Rose leave a lot to be desired. The women are just plot devices. Sorry to be vulgar: But Soraya’s just there to be the voice of reason and hop on Darren’s dick. And Jason the so-called friend was hateful from the beginning. I feel like he helped push Darren away.

The microaggressions get heavy and gaslighting abounds in this satire about Corporate America and startups. There are some clever digs at work culture and companies who pretend to care about diversity, but ultimately, this one wasn’t for me.

Mini Review #15: Ophiuchus

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Ophiuchus by Alexis Leriger de la PlanteNatasha Tara Petrovic (144 pages)

I dig the art style, the mechas, and the elaborate, beautiful flat coloring. I even like the idea of a robot underclass, “builder bots,” rebelling against the higher caste robots, and the basic premise of the story.

But I think the execution was confusing. There was the evil Serpent, then the gods who gifted a weapon to Pyx(?), robots getting corrupted, and so on… The trio got close too fast. The MC was amazed that a character was being nice to her, and I was like you just met them. You don’t know her enough to know if she’s always surly or not. Maybe time was passing quickly, but I didn’t see that distinction.

Overall, I was a little lost with the story, and it was difficult, at times, to decipher whether Sagitta or Pyx was talking. The lore seemed interesting, and it may have worked with better pacing. Like, over two volumes? The artwork was endearing though. Just visually-appealing.

Book review #72: Blackout

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Blackout by Dhonielle Clayton (256 pages)

I like how some of the characters are reoccurring in other short stories, really makes the New York setting feel real. Some stories may not blow you away, but I acknowledge it’s very hard to set up a romance with convincing characters and chemistry in only a few pages. Overall, not a bad collection.

Looking forward to the Netflix series for this!

The Long Walk (3.5 stars)
I liked this one. It’s one of those “lack of communication ruins everything” stories … but fun. Tammi and Kareem were interesting, and I wanted to know what caused their fallout so badly. Ms. Jackson has this tendency to slowly feed you the plot in her stories (Monday’s Not Coming, Grown, etc). It’s annoying lol but certainly one of her author trademarks.

Mask Off (2 stars)
This one was okay, but JJ’s narrative and dialogue felt so unrealistic at times. Maybe he’s got the range for it, I guess but I just don’t believe the average, 16ish boy is going to care about how women should be able to breastfeed in public without scrutiny. Some of the teenaged boys I’ve known would’ve been straining their necks to see a titty pop out.

Made to Fit (4 stars)
As always, I love Woodfolk’s ability to make us care about characters in few words. And her character descriptions? Stellar. The conversations between Nella and Joss flow so easily, even the flirting. Loved how soft Nella was.

All the Great Love Stories … And Dust (2 stars)
This one felt a little dry even though it takes places in a library and involves books. I didn’t care for Tristán. He wasn’t much beyond a ladies’ man. Lana’s insecurities about finding love and worries about growing apart from her friend were relatable.

No Sleep Till Brooklyn (4 stars)
I enjoyed this one. The dialogue/narrative was strong and entertaining, and I definitely understood Kayla’s FOMO (fear of missing out). Love triangle vibes.

Seymour and Grace (3 stars)
Surprisingly gets philosophical. It ends fitting, but I think it could’ve been extended. Not sure if the ladies had word counts for this project.

Have you read this collection? What was your favorite?

Book Review #71: She Memes Well

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She Memes Well: Essays by Quinta Brunson (256 pages)

“Telling [tragic] stories that do not result in action turns those stories into entertainment” (235).

It’s always difficult to rate memoirs (technically, an essay collection) because it’s literally someone’s life, but learning about Quinta’s was very fun and engaging. I really felt that chapter about seeing your parents as humans who make mistakes and don’t have it all together (they have their own insecurities, traumas, life experiences, etc) though you don’t always need to listen to them.

I loved the insight into Quinta’s life and mind. Some chapters are super funny like when a high-school-Quinta and her friends went to a store to buy some razors for a fight or very sobering like the chapter on a family member of hers being murdered and how isolating it felt to experience that. The collection ends with some 2020-centric essays discussing the pandemic, George Floyd, Americans panic-buying, etc. Overall, a very fitting collection!