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Review: The Fox & the Little Tanuki, Volume 2 by Mi Tagawa

The Fox & the Little Tanuki, Volume 2 by Mi Tagawa – ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Expected Publication: August 18, 2020

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

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!

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!

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Review: The Invincible Summer of Juniper Jones by Daven McQueen

The Invincible Summer of Juniper Jones by Daven McQueen – 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟
Expected Release: June 16, 2020

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)

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.

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.

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Review: The Obsidian Tower by Melissa Caruso

The Obsidian Tower by Melissa Caruso – ⭐⭐⭐

Recommended: yes
For an introduction to a promising new fantasy series, for political scheming and world-threatening dangers to your heart’s content, for elaborate growth of the main character built steadily throughout

I adore the cover. Clever title design, fits the name, just so good.

The mage-marked granddaughter of a ruler of Vaskandar, Ryx was destined for power and prestige at the top of Vaskandran society. But her magic is broken; all she can do is uncontrollably drain the life from everything she touches, and Vaskandar has no place for a mage with unusable powers. Then, one night, two terrible accidents befall her: Ryx accidentally kills a visiting dignitary in self-defense, activating a mysterious magical artifact sealed in an ancient tower in the heart of her family’s castle. Ryx flees, seeking a solution to her deadly magic. She falls in with a group of unlikely magical experts investigating the disturbance in Vaskandar—and Ryx realizes that her family is in danger and her domain is at stake. She and her new colleagues must return to the family stronghold to take control of the artifact that everyone wants to claim—before it destroys the world.

Points for unexpected plot twists, that felt believable and acceptable. None of this plot twist where it’s too outrageous or feels like an excuse (“It was all a dream!”). I’m a little bloodthirsty so maybe I wanted something different in some cases, but I still enjoyed it. All the elements I had hoped for re: the world of darkness were satisfied and more is promised. Now the challenge is waiting for the next book to release next year.

This is a fairly hefty book, in length and content. It has a pretty slow start, with a lot of setup for the kingdoms in the world, the cultures and clashes between them, and a whole lot of political negotiation complicated by mysterious deadly artifacts. Most of the action happens in the latter half of the book. Don’t expect to rush through this; it’s best to sit down ready to learn about the world.

She just knows that sometimes you have to destroy in order to protect.

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Review: I Left The House Today! by Cassandra Calin

I Left The House Today!: Comics by Cassandra Calin by Cassandra Calin – ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Expected release date: June 2, 2020

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

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.

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!

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Review: Daisy Does it Herself by Gracie Player

Daisy Does it Herself by Gracie Player – ⭐⭐⭐
This was a lovely romance with woman-power of a tech savvy heroine, and I’m be damned if I don’t already want more 😍

Recommended: sure!
For a book that makes you cheer for the main character, for a love interest who’s clear but respectful, for a female character who is defined by more than the men around her, for a generally feel-good and silly story

Daisy Does it Herself by Gracie Player
Definitely an eyecatching cover!

When 26-year-old Daisy’s life in London comes crashing down around her, the only thing she can think of is getting away – far away. That’s how she found herself stumbling off a train in England’s picturesque Peak District – 150 miles from home, with no idea why she’d gone there and even less idea how she intended to get home. But as Daisy explores the gorgeous village of Upper Finlay, she glimpses the possibility of a different life. The Derbyshire Dales offer up new friends, new opportunities, and a distractingly dishy object of attraction in the form of local bookstore owner Alex (and his bumbling Great Dane.) When Daisy discovers Alex’s business is in trouble she steps in to save the day. But London’s calling – literally. The life Daisy ran away from is calling her back. Why then, is she so reluctant to heed its call? Daisy’s got a decision to make: Will she play it safe, and return to what she knew? Or is she brave enough to take a leap of faith and create a bold, new life for herself in the last place she’d ever expected?

I totally judged this book by it’s cover, and the cover suits it very well. I love the bright cheery colors, and the poised and cool woman suits Daisy’s growth throughout the book. The title is also perfect, and Daisy does indeed take control even when her whole life seems absolutely out of control.

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Review: RWBY The Official Manga 1 by Bunta Kinami

RWBY THE OFFICIAL MANGA 1 by Bunta Kinami – ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Great to read, but some visuals that were difficult to parse out into elements and movement.
Expected Release: July 21, 2020

Recommended: yes!
For those who like the supernatural-hunter kind of manga, for very clearly defined character personalities, for some intriguing lore and monsters, and of course for anyone who’s seen the Rooster Teeth production it’s based on

In the world of Remnant, monsters known as Grimm wreak havoc. They’re kept in check by Huntsmen and Huntresses, highly skilled warriors experienced in monster extermination who utilize their special abilities on the field of battle. Ruby is a ferociously talented young girl who comes to Beacon Academy to hone her skills and serve as a Huntress herself. Alongside her sister Yang Xiao Long, rival Weiss Schnee and newfound friend Blake Belladonna, Ruby leads Team RWBY, the coolest new group at Beacon! Ruby takes her first step on the road to becoming a Huntress by enrolling at Beacon Academy, eager to take on the battery of tests, challenges and difficulties that follow. Ruby knows her talents will take her to her goal, but is she ready to clash with Weiss Schnee, haughty scion of the Schnee Dust Company?

I’m in an unusual position I think, as I have been aware of this series since it started with Rooster Teeth. However at that time I didn’t enjoy the animation style they used, and wasn’t able to watch more than a few episodes before being turned off despite what seemed like a promising plot. So when I heard there was a manga version of it… WELL. That sounded perfect – I could finally get the story without the animation!

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Review: The Empress of Salt and Fortune by Nghi Vo

The Empress of Salt and Fortune by Nghi Vo – ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Was this what I expected? No. Not even close. It was so much more.

This was a short read packed with so much. This is a great example of what can be done in ~100 pages. This is something you have to think about, and savor, and should not read passively.

Recommended: yes
For a short read that packs a punch, for beautifully lyrical writing, for a story that emerges through clues and fog and whispers, for a surprisingly gorgeous depiction of a life through objects

With the heart of an Atwood tale and the visuals of a classic Asian period drama The Empress of Salt and Fortune is a tightly and lushly written narrative about empire, storytelling, and the anger of women. A young royal from the far north is sent south for a political marriage. Alone and sometimes reviled, she has only her servants on her side. This evocative debut chronicles her rise to power through the eyes of her handmaiden, at once feminist high fantasy and a thrilling indictment of monarchy.

Do not make the mistake of thinking that since this is just over 100 pages that it is sparse in detail or not much happens or you would not have time to learn the characters. We get all of that and more, and in such an elegant way, that it’s stunning to think how few times you actually need to turn the page.

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Review: What You Wish For by Katherine Center

What You Wish For by Katherine Center – ⭐⭐⭐
Expected Release: July 14, 2020

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

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.

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.

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Review: The Fox & the Little Tanuki, Vol. 1 by Mi Tagawa

The Fox & the Little Tanuki, Vol. 1 by Mi Tagawa – ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Expected Release: March 17, 2020

Recommended: yes ♥
For a sweet light story, for drama mixed with humour, for characters you’ll love

You already know you’ll love it

Long ago, the gods granted a few special animals great powers… but not all those animals used their magical abilities for good! Senzou the Fox Spirit in particular grew too brash and arrogant, abusing his strength until the gods imprisoned him for his bad behavior. Three hundred years later, he’s finally been released, but only on one condition– he can’t have his any of his abilities back until he successfully helps a tanuki cub named Manpachi become an assistant to the gods. 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!

The light and watery art style is a perfect match to this story, because it’s overall pretty lighthearted with some moments of pain and depth for the characters to grow from. It’s pretty irresistible to have the tough bad guy’s heart slowly thawed by the adorable little fluff chub. Yet despite some character changes throughout, they also do stay true to themselves in many ways too; there’s no miraculous conversions or sudden 180s here.

I really need to emphasize how much this made me laugh, too. Not just in terms of how often I laughed, but the force of my laughter. The frog part had me laughing so hard I cried, partly because it was just so unexpected, and I re-read it several times, laughing that hard every time. In fact, I’ll probably go read it again when I’m done writing this, because it was such a pure joy.

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Review: Anna K. by Jenny Lee

Anna K. by Jenny Lee – ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Overall, probably kind of dense for readers coming into this with no expectations from the original. Enough reflection of the original yet with its own surprises to interest those familiar with the original. And for both, moments where the old Russian style and internet era style will clash in a really strange way.

Recommended: yes!
For an adaptation from an uncommon source for the genre, for a rich-and-famous-teen story, for a lot of interpersonal intrigue and drama sprinkled with plenty of sex, drugs, and partying.

Meet Anna K. At seventeen, she is at the top of Manhattan and Greenwich society. She has the perfect (if perfectly boring) boyfriend, Alexander W. Meanwhile, Anna’s brother, Steven, and his girlfriend, Lolly, are trying to weather an sexting scandal; Lolly’s little sister, Kimmie, is struggling to recalibrate to normal life after an injury derails her ice dancing career; and Steven’s best friend, Dustin, is madly (and one-sidedly) in love with Kimmie.

As her friends struggle with the pitfalls of ordinary teenage life, Anna always seems to be able to sail gracefully above it all. That is…until the night she meets Alexia “Count” Vronsky at Grand Central. A notorious playboy who has bounced around boarding schools and who lives for his own pleasure, Alexia is everything Anna is not. But he has never been in love until he meets Anna, and maybe she hasn’t, either. As Alexia and Anna are pulled irresistibly together, she has to decide how much of her life she is willing to let go for the chance to be with him. And when a shocking revelation threatens to shatter their relationship, she is forced to question if she has ever known herself at all.

The experience for those who are coming into this as its own standalone story with no preconceived ideas of what will happen is different than those who have read the original. Be aware that this is a lot more serious and formal in tone than most YA novels, which is due to Lee’s success in imitating the reserved Russian mindset and style of the original. While I plowed through this, other friends said it took them weeks to get through because of how slow and dense it felt at times. The overall effect is an unprecedented blend of modern and classic tones.

The primary hurdle to this blend is when they clash in a quite jarring way. For example, the sentence “Perhaps [she] was rueful over her lost opportunity with [him], who wasn’t as babe-a-licious as [the other guy] but was vastly superior in intellect and character.” (Edited to keep it vague). The term “babealicious” set up against “vastly superior in intellect and character” is extremely weird, posing the character thinking it simultaneously as a serious posh old lady and a millennial pop-culture fanatic. It gets really awkward at times, and the tone is pretty inconsistent. Alternatively (and as above, sometimes simultaneously) aggressively young and weirdly old in their mindset, these teenagers often don’t read as teenagers and makes it hard to classify this as a young adult genre.

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