Book Review #61: The Year I Flew Away

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The cover’s by one of my favorite artists, GDBee/Geneva Bowers

The Year I Flew Away by Marie Arnold (256 pages)

Well, I never thought I would read “molesting the avocados” in a story, but here we all.

Overall, I enjoyed reading this. I almost read this all-in-one sitting. Normally, watching characters make mistake after mistake can get tiring, but I didn’t mind Gabrielle’s journey to self-acceptance. Gabrielle’s immigration experience is not easy and she feels othered in Brooklyn, New York. The weight of all of Haiti (though really, it’s just her fam back home) is on her shoulders to fit in and not cause any trouble. That’s a lot. I think many first- and second-generation and newly immigrated kids will find this story relatable. There is magical realism throughout this story, but the ending felt a little on the nose.

Still, certainly worth reading.

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Book Review #60: Angel of Greenwood

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Angel of Greenwood by Randi Pink (304 pages)

I have always heard about Black Wallstreet and I knew the unfortunate ending, but I liked seeing this fictional take on it. We get to see how life may have been for those living in this sort of Black oasis. The people in the community felt real to me. The Booker T. Washington vs. W.E B. Du Bois conversations where their two ideologies are contrasted were good as well.

For those more interested in the historical aspects, they may be disappointed by how much the story focuses on Isaiah’s development, Angel’s need to help, and innocent romance (slightly insta-lovey but fitting). The actual events don’t take place until the last hundred pages, choosing instead to focus on our main characters’ lives instead.

I enjoyed (as much as you can with the subject matter) reading Angel of Greenwood. This is a dual pov with Angel and Isaiah. Angel is the girl with a heart of gold who is always caring for others and not herself, while Isaiah is a secretly-decent guy led around by his nasty friend Muggy jr.

I did not know how early on would the book touch on the vile massacre, so there was an impending sense of dread for me. However, the lightheartedness of Isaiah getting his junk together and his beautiful, lovesick poems he wrote about Angel were a welcome distraction.

While I generally don’t read much historical fiction, I don’t regret reading this. We, descendants from North American chattel enslavement and black people in general, have truly had an enduring time in this country. Still, Angel of Greenwood shows that black life isn’t/wasn’t this all-consuming suffering. People had lives, aspirations, hopes and dreams and whatnot too.

Anyway, this is worth reading (and talking about!)

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Review #59: Blue Period Vol 1

Blue Period Volume 1 by Tsubasa Yamaguchi (224 pages)

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“Art is fun, you know. And those who are true to themselves make truly great art. Because art is a language without words.”

Really good! I’m not just saying this as an artist too. Here, Yatora’s been coasting through life telling people what they want to hear and careful not to make himself an outcast – until he finds he can express his true feelings with art.

“…Hard workers who do things they like… Are unstoppable!”

While I don’t regret not going to art school, Yatora asked some of the exact questions I had about whether it’s worth going to art school and could you make stable money with an artistic career. I’m excited to see his journey as he grows as an artist.

There are so many relatable things here, the merit of how learning to draw realistically can help influence your stylized work, how not to compare your art to others, how art comes easily to some like prodigies, and how you should enjoy what you make.

If it’s worth anything, reading this made me want to practice still life and perspective-drawing again.

4/5

Volume 2 Review

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Guess what? Apparently, this is my 100th post on WordPress! 😀

Book Review #58: Wings of Ebony

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Wings of Ebony by J. Elle (368 pages)

What a ride! Make this a movie (either animated or live action is fine)! I loved the strong sense of community Rue’s (neighbor)hood had and all the soul food references. Collard greens and neckbones and thick, lemony slices of pound cake? Yum!

Also, I enjoyed Rue’s narrative. Girl got some spunk. She’s not just this magical brick wall of a girl who pushes everything down inside; she had vulnerability too. It was a great and needed balance.

Wings of Ebony was a breeze to read. The chapters passed by quickly and kept my interest. Shoutout to Ms. Leola you the real MVP!

The book isn’t perfect (there’s some instalove in the mix and a rather cliché moment), but I’ll read book two for sure! 

4.5 stars

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Book Review #57: Happily Ever Afters

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Happily Ever Afters by Elise Bryant (384 pages)

First, what a lovely cover! ❤ Writers often make their main character love books or writing and usually it falls flat, but Tessa was fine. It’s fun seeing how her romanticized daydreams turn into story ideas. Tessa’s a hopeful romantic with a mind filled with fluffy thoughts (and she’s an overthinker too).

Her mind is also filled with worries as she lives with anxiety and imposter syndrome. Tessa feels, sometimes, what’s important to her has to take a back seat because of her brother, Miles. I enjoyed Tessa and Miles relationship and the overall family dynamics a lot. I thought the author did a great job showing Tessa’s feelings of frustration but love as well.

At times, Tessa’s narrative feels like “teaching” moments, but I’m sure that’s so a wider audience can understand. It’s just feels obvious if you already know. Poppy felt a little one note.

Overall, cute and light-hearted and familial love plays as big a part as teen-swoony love. I didn’t actually care for the romance, but I liked the long-distance best friends so much. The ending is fitting.

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Book Review #56 Milo’s World Book 1 & Odessa

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Milo’s World: The Land Under the Lake by Richard Marazano & Christophe Ferreira (120 pages)

I hadn’t heard about this comic until I found it at the library. I have a soft spot for European comics.

Listen, the artwork is marvelous, but the characters just aren’t here. I like Valia the most from this story, but her tone’s too biting. It’s obvious she’s being set up to be a love interest. I like snarky characters, but it needs to feel warranted. Milo’s so trusting that he’s a bit of a dumb-dumb, but he’s a kid so you know. I feel like every line of dialogue is an argument.

I think this is more plot-driven than character-driven, so that’s fine. I’m going to attribute a lot of the problems from the translation from French to English. Maybe that’s why I didn’t care for the characters or their dialogue?

There’s a good plot twist toward the end! Worth reading if you like fantasy, Studio Ghibli vibes, and gorgeous artwork.


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Odessa by Jonathan Hill (328 pages)

This was good though the narrative’s messy. Virginia really speaks to the stubbornness of teenagers who are determined but can’t see the error of their ways until hindsight sets in. The tough realities of taking two kids into post-apocalyptic zones is fully-there and heavy. All of this storytelling was very bleak and I wouldn’t reread for fun, but I’m invested enough to read a sequel. I also like the pinkish peach color scheme.

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Book Review #55: Pistouvi

Pistouvi by Merwan & Bertrand Gatignol (192 pages)

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CLEANEST LINEART EVER! The artwork alone is gorgeous and appealing. The mastery of gray tones, whites, and blacks is wonderful. For the story, I didn’t understand anything that was going on. This book is full throttle in showing and not telling, but I was confused for the most part. ;__; I don’t know the setting but birds apparently carry a curse to turn you into a bird if you listen to them, a little girl and a fox are friends, but it seems time is running out for their friendship, and the Wind is personified like a parent to the MCs.

The ending is unsettling, and we don’t get any loose ends explained. There’s a message here, but I’m trying to figure out what it was. Maybe don’t antagonize others because they’re different than you? But Pistouvi seemed to have some type of trauma toward birds and was he partially deaf? Why are there no other people around but the Wind and her husband? Where are Pistouvi’s parents? Why did the Wind give the Jeanne an ocarina?

I think this is a standalone, but I’ve more questions. I rated this one rather lowly for its confusing story.

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Book Review #54 Timo the Adventurer and A Cat Story

Timo the Adventurer by Jonathan Garnier (128 pages)

Timo the Adventurer by Jonathan Garnier

I loved it! A little boy, who has read every book in his small village, sets off on his first adventurer’s journey. What makes this story different is its core. There’s a lot of heart here. Consequences are real and weigh heavily on all the characters, but there’s a message of forgiveness too.

Outside of Timo, each character design is fun and magical. I enjoyed this journey from beginning to end. Usually, kid adventurers aren’t the most level-headed, but Timo, though naïve, is smart and kind-hearted.

5/5 stars


A Cat Story by Ursula Murray Husted (192 pages)

A Cat Story by Ursula Murray Husted

Charming story with lovely artwork, especially if you like European architecture.

Cilla, an optimistic kitten, sets out to find the famous quiet garden with her friend Betto. The entire journey to see whether the garden truly exists is only half the fun. The friendship between the kittens and the backdrop of paintings was so endearing to me.

5 stars!

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Book Review #53: A Cuban Girl’s Guide to Tea and Tomorrow

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SO CUTE!

A Cuban Girl’s Guide to Tea and Tomorrow by Laura Taylor Namey (320 pages)

First, this cover is GORGEOUS! Andrea Porretta and Karyn Lee did awesome work. The font, the way the pink fades into white, just the whole hardcover. I absolutely love how Orion and Lila look; I love Orion’s name too.

This story is cozy like a warm sweater, major slice-of-life vibes. There’s not much drama, which would be okay if our cast of characters were more entertaining. I didn’t care for any of the cast though I enjoyed Lila-Pilar’s sister relationship.

The ending is fitting and every loose end gets tied. If something was mentioned before, it gets closure. This is my third novel with a British, male love interest who’s BLAND. Orion’s polite, a little bookish, and over-protective, but not much else. I think I personally didn’t mesh with him. Lila fared better than him because I was interested in her coming to terms with her take-overish, aggressive personality, but, at times, it felt like her whole personality was just Miami.

I usually like light-hearted things, but I almost dnf’ed this multiple times. Still, if you like Hallmark movies, I think you’d enjoy this. It’s by no means bad, just serviceable to me.

Have you read any good, fluffy romances lately?

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Book Review #52: Never Look Back

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Never Look Back by Lilliam Rivera (320 pages)

I enjoyed reading Never Look Back with its New York setting and fun characters. Now, I’m not familiar with most Greek mythology, so any parallels and references were lost to me. Some of the dialogue is the slightest bit corny, but it’s definitely New Yorker slang. I think it just sounds more natural when you hear it, y’know. Just curious, y’all New Yorkers, still saying homeboy?

Anyway, the story touches on a lot of things, but it didn’t feel clunky to me. Prince’s music and the evil (and beauty) of humans are both recurring themes. I thought it was an interesting, though strange, choice to keep capitalizing Black in place of African-American/black-American. I get it though because black can be a colloquial nickname for the ethnicity.

The narrative acknowledges hope and resilience can be a very powerful thing, especially as it relates to Puerto Rico as Eury feels untethered from her island. She’s seen the destruction and rebuilding that needs to take place, and she’s tired of people questioning why she and others haven’t done anything about it. I also, LOVE the conversations about balancing faith, therapy, and medication. Those could be a good trio, if you’re open to it.

When it comes to characters, I like when they aren’t just black and white. For example, Melaina was catty and #TooMuch but not evil. She had a bit more depth than just the jealous mean girl. Orpheus/Pheus was bland, just a charming dude with a voice of silk, until he started trying to protect Eury. One of my favorite characters was Pheus’s worldly and spiritual dad. He wasn’t the usual, hot Latin-dude stereotype, so I thought he was refreshing. His and Pheus’ father-son connection was heartwarming. “Be safe. Don’t be stupid.”

Every moment of the Ato conflict was great. I was questioning Ato’s existence and other things too. The second half of the story definitely amps up the supernatural. Now, there is an uncomfortable scene where a man has intent to sexually-harass and/or assault a character, but the majority of this book wasn’t dark. The story’s actually fast-paced, which is something I personally like.

Overall, the ending was fitting and ultimately subverted my expectations. I’m interested in reading more from this author.