Hey y’all! I happened to get particularly lucky with s chance to get an advanced reader copy of a book that made stars pop into my eyes the second I saw it was coming out. So what is this magical amazing book?
Hint #1: it has three appendices, including an appendix of terms and one about the physics in the book, and that’s how you know an author is super serious
Hint #2: it’s an absolute beast at almost a thousand pages long
Recommended: yes!! For more heartwarming moments, for a volume looking at some of the other characters in depth, for an interesting addition in the world we see them all in
Summary: After 300 years, the gods that imprisoned Senzou the Fox Spirit for his arrogance finally set him free. There is only one condition — he can’t have any of his supernatural abilities back until he successfully helps a tanuki cub named Manpachi become one of their magical assistants. Unfortunately for Senzou, there’s no cheating when it comes to completing his task! The magic beads around his neck make sure he can’t wander too far from his charge or shirk his duties, and so… Senzou the once-great Fox Spirit must now figure out how to be an actually-great babysitter to a mischievous little tanuki or risk being stuck without his powers forever!
Thoughts: Well, the cliffhanger from Volume 1 is no longer hanging over my head, thank goodness! I was so excited to come back to this story in Volume 2. As ever, the art perfectly complements the story style, in how it’s able to carry so many different kinds of meaning effortlessly. Everything from the funny moments, to the painful moments, to the crying-because-it’s-beautiful moments: the art style is adaptable to all of them.
And yes, no worries: this volume is just as hilarious and cute as the previous, despite it’s darker tones as well. What I loved most about this one was being able to learn more about the characters besides the Senzou and Manpachi. Though we do still have stories with them, we also get to see more about some of the wolves and even about our frenemy the badger. Personally I loved this, in part because the relationship between the wolves are so delightful in their contrasting personality that it was enlightening to see how they each got that way.
We also get to see them in their human forms a bit more, which was a shocker but also a fantastic addition. Their interactions in the human world were still perfectly in character and added a twist element to the plot moving forward. I expect we’ll see a bit more of this weaving between worlds in future volumes as well.
One extra bonus at the end that I loved was the inclusion of some short one-off comics with the characters that were translated into English. Some of these comics have been posted on the author’s social media pages in Japanese, so here I finally got the English versions! And let me tell you, they did not disappoint. It’s always hard to end one of these volumes because I adore the characters so much and want to see more, so it made it a little easier to accept. 😁 Can’t wait for the next volume!
Thanks to NetGalley and Diamond Book Distributors for a free advanced copy in exchange for an honest review!
Recommended: yes For a generational story of understanding, for a look at recent historical Chinese eras, for a story that pierces your heart and makes you want only the best for the characters, for a blend of romance and survival and coming-of-age.
Summary Mini Pao lives with her sister and parents in a pre-war Shanghai divided among foreign occupiers and Chinese citizens, a city known as the “Paris of the East” with its contrast of vibrant night life and repressive social mores. Already considered an old maid at twenty-three, Mini boldly rejects the path set out for her as she struggles to provide for her family and reckons with her desire for romance and autonomy. Mini’s story of love, betrayal, and determination unfolds in the Western-style cafes, open-air markets, and jazz-soaked nightclubs of Shanghai—the same city where, decades later, her granddaughter Ting embarks on her own journey toward independence.
Ting Lee has grown up behind an iron curtain in a time of scarcity, humility, and forced-sameness in accordance with the strictures of Chairman Mao’s cultural revolution. As a result, Ting’s imagination burns with curiosity about fashion, America, and most of all, her long-lost grandmother Mini’s glamorous past and mysterious present. As her thirst for knowledge about the world beyond 1970s Shanghai grows, Ting is driven to uncover her family’s tragic past and face the difficult truth of what the future holds for her if she remains in China.
Thoughts: This was an elaborate and impressive saga of romance, and survival, and coming-of-age. Ting ages from a child to an adult women in the course of the story, and we see Mini from late teens to her elder years. That span alone is a lot to cover, and so the story relfects that in how long it can take to read. While it was engaging the whole way through, the concepts and stories are complex enough that it simply takes some time.
May Day by Josie Jaffrey – ⭐⭐⭐⭐ Vampires, murder investigation, competing love interests, dark humour…. Yup. That was a good risk. 😍
Recommended: yes! For a captivating mystery blended with delicious sensuality, for humor both dark and light, for intense personal introspection from the main character
Summary: If the murderer you’re tracking is a vampire, then you want a vampire detective. Just maybe not this one. It’s not that Jack Valentine is bad at her job. The youngest member of Oxford’s Seekers has an impressive track record, but she also has an impressive grudge against the local baron, Killian Drake. When a human turns up dead on May Morning, she’s determined to pin the murder on Drake. The problem is that none of the evidence points to him. Instead, it leads Jack into a web of conspiracy involving the most powerful people in the country, people to whom Jack has no access. But she knows someone who does. To get to the truth, Jack will have to partner up with her worst enemy. As long as she can keep her cool, Drake will point her to the ringleaders, she’ll find the murderer and no one else will have to die. Body bags on standby.
Thoughts: Although I don’t usually read mysteries, the blend of vampires and the offbeat main character made me take a chance on this one. I am so glad I did!
It’s a mystery at heart, and I absolutely did not guess the resolution. That, for me, is a large part of what makes reading a mystery fun: the ah-ha! moment when it all pieces together at the end. However there’s enough puzzle remaining that I’m ready to read the next book already! I want to know how the others fall into these shady dealings.
Recommended: sure!! For a cute quick read, for anyone who’s all about the idol fandom, for a likable but realistic MC.
Summary: Gigi is a 16-year-old from South Korea, who dreams of becoming an idol for the famed talent agency, One-Shot Entertainment. As fate would have it, Gigi is recruited as their newest trainee, but winds up in a situation far from what she ever dreamed of when she’s placed in an experimental unit group project code-named “SKS.” From there, Gigi’s new life as a K-Pop idol begins to unfold more like a K-Drama after she’s assigned to the newly defined co-ed unit SKS-7, and must adjust to working with 6 male bandmates who aren’t very thrilled by her placement in their group. Will Gigi be able to survive in SKS-7 and the world of Korean idol life, or will her dreams go up in flames as quickly as they were ignited?
Thoughts: Oh man, this was so fun to read! Gigi is too edgy for her girl group, so gets shifted into a (previously) all-boy group where her rapping style will have a bigger impact. That’s definitely unusual, which is openly acknowledged in the book. Typically idol groups are gender exclusive: all female or all male. KARD is one of the few real-life mixed-gender groups I’m aware of, and even in their interviews they’ve shyly acknowledged that it can feel pretty awkward doing some of the dances and such together. Just a part of the culture.
Recommended: yes For a fantastic story, for a fictional story about real issues, for a way to reinforce lessons on or teach about racism and the Black experience that would work well for younger students in particular (but definitely adults, too)
Summary: It’s the summer of 1955. For Ethan Harper, a biracial kid raised mostly by his white father, race has always been a distant conversation. When he’s sent to spend the summer with his aunt and uncle in small-town Alabama, his Blackness is suddenly front and center, and no one is shy about making it known he’s not welcome there. Except for Juniper Jones. The town’s resident oddball and free spirit, she’s everything the townspeople aren’t―open, kind, and full of acceptance. Armed with two bikes and an unlimited supply of root beer floats, Ethan and Juniper set out to find their place in a town that’s bent on rejecting them. As Ethan is confronted for the first time by what it means to be Black in America, Juniper tries to help him see the beauty in even the ugliest reality, and that even the darkest days can give rise to an invincible summer.
Thoughts: Honestly, I thought it was weird at first that the white girl’s name was on the cover of the black boy’s story. I worried about what message that gave before even beginning the book. I’m still not sure about that, but Juniper brought light and honesty and bravery to Ethan’s life — so maybe it makes sense that she was featured so prominently on his cover. I never quite understood why the other town kids made fun of her and said she was crazy, so either I missed something or it was simply because she wasn’t as racist as the rest of them.
Recommended: yes for people who have enjoyed her comics on social, for women who enjoy short comics that are #relatable, for anyone looking for a little smile
Summary: Cassandra Calin’s ability to document the hilarity of relatable everyday events in a series of webcomics has generated a huge following on social media. This beautifully illustrated compendium of first-person comics about the trials of the single life, school, stress, junk food, shaving, and maintaining a healthy self-image. Cassandra Calin’s comics frequently highlight the humorous gap between expectations and reality, especially when it comes to appearance and how much she can accomplish in one day. This book is funny, lighthearted, introspective, and artistically stunning—the perfect gift for young women, recent graduates, and anyone who might need a little comedic incentive to leave the house today.
Thoughts: If you follow her on Instagram or have otherwise seen her comics, then you can expect more of the same art style and humour. For those new to Cassandra Calin, YOU’RE IN FOR A FUN TIME! Mostly short 4-panel comics or expectations vs reality side by side comparisons, these are everyday issues most people run into. Her comics probably do appeal to women more since she writes about her experiences like menstruating, trying to find comfortable clothes, and attempts at hair styling. Men will probably get a laugh too, but honestly I could also see a lot of them scratching their heads or cringing in horror as they learn things they never knew about the female mind and body. 😂
For new content, there are definitely comics from her social sharings in here that I recognized. I’m not sure if any are exclusive to the book, but it was about half ones I’d seen and half ones that were new to me. The arc follows roughly a year in her life, with some seasonal and school based comics.
Thanks to NetGalley and Andrews McMeel for a free ARC in exchange for an honest review!
Recommended: oh yes For men and others who are unaware of how crappily women are treated due to institutionalized efforts against them consciously or not, for those who need a refresher on gender equality, for a short read that packs a punch, for anyone looking for a cruel dose of reality
Summary: In a small, tidy apartment on the outskirts of the frenzied metropolis of Seoul, Kim Jiyoung—a millennial “everywoman”—spends her days caring for her infant daughter. Her husband, however, worries over a strange symptom that has recently appeared: Jiyoung has begun to impersonate the voices of other women—dead and alive, both known and unknown to her. Truly, flawlessly, completely, she became that very person. As she plunges deeper into this psychosis, Jiyoung’s concerned husband sends her to a psychiatrist, who listens to her narrate her own life story—from her birth to a family who expected a son, to elementary school teachers who policed girls’ outfits, to male coworkers who installed hidden cameras in women’s restrooms and posted the photos online. But can her doctor cure her, or even discover what truly ails her?
Thoughts: I’ve lived and worked in Korea before, and it is my favorite place in the world. However that doesn’t mean I’m blind to its flaws, as every place will have. In the case of Korea, much of it centers around gender equality issues largely stemming from traditional roles that the culture has struggled to truly move beyond. Basically, women are treated quite poorly in many ways that are yet deemed not only acceptable, but expected.
Reading this as a woman, none of this was a surprise to me. I’ve experienced or known others who have experienced so many of the same situations, whether in Korea or in the United States. I’d be very curious to see what it was like for a man or someone who doesn’t have painful firsthand experience thinks of this.
Recommended: sure For teachers, for those who like Center’s writing style, for a blend of teaching pedagogy and medical/personal self-discovery, for a book where you know exactly what to expect, for something uplifting and quotable if you’re having a bad day
Summary: Samantha Casey loves everything about her job as an elementary school librarian on the sunny, historic island of Galveston, Texas—the goofy kids, the stately Victorian building, the butterfly garden. But when the school suddenly loses its beloved principal, it turns out his replacement will be none other than Duncan Carpenter—a former, unrequited crush of Sam’s from many years before. When Duncan shows up as her new boss, though, he’s nothing like the sweet teacher she once swooned over. He’s become stiff, and humorless, and obsessed with school safety. Now, with Duncan determined to destroy everything Sam loves about her school in the name of security—and turn it into nothing short of a prison—Sam has to stand up for everyone she cares about before the school that’s become her home is gone for good.
Thoughts: The writing was very familiar to Center’s other works. The MC was very self-aware, and did a good job at calling herself out in cliche situations with clear-eyed bemusement. Overall, I was entertained but not enthralled. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly why, but I’ll try.
There were points that felt unnecessarily drawn out; like descriptions that didn’t add to the story, or musings that we had already heard several times before (“I can’t believe how different Duncan is”). I rarely skim in stories, but I was here every now and then.