Review: On a Sunbeam by Tillie Waldon

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Throughout the deepest reaches of space, a crew rebuilds beautiful and broken-down structures, painstakingly putting the past together. As Mia, the newest member, gets to know her team, the story flashes back to her pivotal year in boarding school, where she fell in love with a mysterious new student. When Mia grows close to her new friends, she reveals her true purpose for joining their ship—to track down her long-lost love.

What an absolutely stunning piece of art this book is. I’ve wanted to read something by Tillie Waldon for a long time, and my lovely friend Courtney gave me this one for Christmas last year. I finally got around to picking it up recently, and I’m so glad I did.

This book is about friendship, relationship, boarding school, space, emotions, loneliness, being alone, long lost love, found family, and a broken world. I would happily choose any number of these pages to have as printed pieces of art and stick them on my wall, and even then I would struggle with which ones to choose. Each page is breathtakingly beautiful and the colour scheme is striking.

Tillie Waldon is incredibly talented and I can’t wait to read more from her (I’ve already picked up i love this part which I can’t wait to read), but be warned that this book is a beast, clocking in at over 500 pages. Although I don’t think I quite connected with it as emotionally as other readers, I just know that I’ll re-read this and fall in love with it even more next time.

★★★★
4 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: Children of Virtue and Vengeance (#2) by Tomi Adeyemi

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After battling the impossible, Zélie and Amari have finally succeeded in bringing magic back to the land of Orïsha. But the ritual was more powerful than they could’ve imagined, reigniting the powers of not only the maji, but of nobles with magic ancestry, too.
Now, Zélie struggles to unite the maji in an Orïsha where the enemy is just as powerful as they are. But when the monarchy and military unite to keep control of Orïsha, Zélie must fight to secure Amari’s right to the throne and protect the new maji from the monarchy’s wrath.
With civil war looming on the horizon, Zélie finds herself at a breaking point: she must discover a way to bring the kingdom together or watch as Orïsha tears itself apart.

After enjoying the first book in this series, Children of Blood and Bone, I decided to pick the second one up while the events of the first were still fresh in my memory. I found the first book engaging if slightly long, with brilliant world-building and an accessible writing style.

Going into the second book, I decided to pick this up on audio. I read the first chunk (around 20%) of Children of Blood and Bone as an audiobook, and I found it engaging and followed the story well. But with Children of Virtue and Vengeance, I found myself switching off almost instantly.

“We’re the children of the gods.” I lift my chin.

Some of the negatives I felt in the first book continued with the second, mainly the relationships between the main characters feeling quite juvenile, and increasingly hormonal throughout this second instalment. The scenes I do actually remember about this book a couple of weeks after finishing it are actually these kinds of scenes, and they feel quite disconnected from the rest of the story.

I felt the story was quite disjointed and disconnected overall, and doesn’t flow very well. To this day, immediately after reading, and even during reading this book, I could not tell you the plot. The first book seemed to follow quite a destined storyline and ended on a cliffhanger, but this one seems to be a mishmash of the fallout from the first book. I’m not even sure how it ended anymore.

“If someone’s running away, it’s not going to be us.”

Overall, this was definitely a disappointment after the complex and intricate fantasy of the first book, of which I could only pick a few (more personal) grievances. I doubt I’ll be continuing with the series at this point.

★★
2 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: Nimona by N.D. Stevenson

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Nemeses! Dragons! Science! Symbolism! All these and more await in this brilliantly subversive, sharply irreverent epic from Noelle Stevenson. Featuring an exclusive epilogue not seen in the web comic, along with bonus conceptual sketches and revised pages throughout, this gorgeous full-color graphic novel is perfect for the legions of fans of the web comic and is sure to win Noelle many new ones.
Nimona is an impulsive young shapeshifter with a knack for villainy. Lord Ballister Blackheart is a villain with a vendetta. As sidekick and supervillain, Nimona and Lord Blackheart are about to wreak some serious havoc. Their mission: prove to the kingdom that Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin and his buddies at the Institution of Law Enforcement and Heroics aren’t the heroes everyone thinks they are.
But as small acts of mischief escalate into a vicious battle, Lord Blackheart realizes that Nimona’s powers are as murky and mysterious as her past. And her unpredictable wild side might be more dangerous than he is willing to admit.

I’ve been hearing everywhere about Nimona for years now, and I’m so glad I finally decided to purchase a copy of my own at YALC earlier this year. Nimona is a fun, adventurous graphic novel following an unlikely group of companions as they wreak havoc.

My favourite part of this was definitely the unlikely friendship of our main companions, and the interactions between them. I found our characters so entertaining, and the fact Nimona herself could shapeshift made for some really humorous scenes.

Although I wasn’t a massive fan of the art style, I soon got into the story and grew to enjoy it in the context of the book.

The text/dialogue being written in a more hand-drawn font definitely gave the book character, but the printing of the physical book did make some of it hard to read. I found the font very small at times, and was often printed towards the edges of the page, disappearing into the spine and making the physical reading experience not quite as enjoyable as it could have been.

But despite these few small complaints, Nimona is a fun story that has a great found-family component and interactions that I loved!

★★★★
3.5 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: I Hear the Sunspot (#1-#3) by Yuki Fumino

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Because of a hearing disability, Kohei is often misunderstood and has trouble integrating into life on campus, so he learns to keep his distance. That is until he meets the outspoken and cheerful Taichi. He tells Kohei that his hearing loss is not his fault. Taichi’s words cut through Kohei’s usual defense mechanisms and open his heart. More than friends, less than lovers, their relationship changes Kohei forever.

This review covers my thoughts about I Hear the Sunspot, I Hear the Sunspot: Theory of Happiness and I Hear the Sunspot: Limit Volume 1.

I’ve heard some great recommendations for I Hear the Sunspot, and although I’m not the biggest manga reader, I decided to finally pick this one up. My friend Courtney had also recommended them to me, and so far, they haven’t let me down.

I Hear the Sunspot is a super sweet, ultra slow-burn LGBT romance between two young men, who notice their close friendship change into something more. The friendship felt honest, emotional and natural, and I loved seeing the ways they interacted. The dialogue felt relatable and the way the pair slowly grow closer over the first few books feels real.

Although I felt the second volume, Theory of Happiness, didn’t quite pack the same punch and became a little convoluted with the introduction of a larger friendship group, it definitely picked up with Limit Volume 1, which became my favourite in the series so far.

In my opinion, the third instalment in this series best encapsulates the tender and difficult journey of Kohei’s hearing disability, and I loved the introduction of this into the workplace. We don’t often see disability portrayed in this way, but the discussions it introduced felt meaningful and honest.

I’m really looking forward to continuing with the series and can’t wait to see how the pair progresses.

I Hear the Sunspot

★★★★★
4.5 out of 5 stars

I Hear the Sunspot: Theory of Happiness

★★★
4 out of 5 stars

I Hear the Sunspot: Limit Volume 1

★★★★★
5 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: Squire by Sara Alfageeh and Nadia Shammas

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Aiza has always dreamt of becoming a Knight. It’s the highest military honor in the once-great Bayt-Sajji Empire, and as a member of the subjugated Ornu people, Knighthood is her only path to full citizenship. Ravaged by famine and mounting tensions, Bayt-Sajji finds itself on the brink of war once again, so Aiza can finally enlist in the competitive Squire training program.
It’s not how she imagined it, though. Aiza must navigate new friendships, rivalries, and rigorous training under the unyielding General Hende, all while hiding her Ornu background. As the pressure mounts, Aiza realizes that the “greater good” that Bayt-Sajji’s military promises might not include her, and that the recruits might be in greater danger than she ever imagined.
Aiza will have to choose, once and for all: loyalty to her heart and heritage, or loyalty to the Empire.

Squire was a welcome treat of a graphic novel, with beautiful art, a gorgeous colour scheme and a concise, well structured story which I found easy to follow.

This graphic novel tackles a variety of topics, some more in depth and difficult than others. As we follow Aiza through her day-to-day life in the competitive Squire training program, we see her navigate friendships, which felt relatable and really drew me into the story. The art was visually stunning and the colour scheme beautiful too, and the landscapes were definitely a favourite part of the overall story for me.

The pacing really picks up in the second half and the action scenes are really visually engaging, almost feeling like a movie. The ending does feel quite rushed, however, and I do feel like this slightly distracted from the struggles Aiza was facing in regards to her Ornu background.

Overall, this was beautiful and I’d love to re-read it at some point to further explore the story, and I’d definitely read another volume if it was published.

★★★★
4 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: Hooky by Miriam Bonastre Tur

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When Dani and Dorian missed the bus to magic school, they never thought they’d wind up declared traitors to their own kind! Now, thanks to a series of mishaps, they are being chased by powerful magic families seeking the prophesied King of Witches and royals searching for missing princes.
But they aren’t alone. With a local troublemaker, a princess, and a teacher who can see the future on their side, they might just be able to clear their names…but can they heal their torn kingdom?
Based on the beloved webcomic from WEBTOON, Hooky is in stunning print format for the first time with exclusive new content sure to please fans new and old.

I’d seen Hooky a couple of times while browsing bookshops before I finally decided to pick it up. The art style really called out to me, and the concept itself sounded similar enough to the adorable Kiki’s Delivery Service that I thought it would be a fun one to pick up.

However, Hooky didn’t impress me quite as much as I was hoping. Although the art style never let me down, and was utterly beautiful and incredibly detailed throughout, the story itself felt kind of disconnected.

This may be due to the fact this was originally published as a Webtoon, but I haven’t felt the same about other Webtoon publications such as Lore Olympus. It also just felt like there was a lot going on. I wanted a sweet story following two kids across a magical land, but it almost felt like there was too much crammed into these pages, and it distracted from what I wanted and hoped for from the book.

This was still really cute, and I did love a lot about it, especially the art style. But it sadly did let me down in places.

★★
3 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: There’s A Ghost in This House by Oliver Jeffers

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Hello, come in.
Maybe you can help me?
A young girl lives in a haunted house, but has never seen a ghost. Are they white with holes for eyes? Are they hard to see? She’d love to know! Step inside and turn the transparent pages to help her on an entertaining ghost hunt, from behind the sofa, right up to the attic. With lots of friendly ghost surprises and incredible mixed media illustrations, this unique and funny book will entertain young readers over and over again
.

I don’t often read picture books, but if I had to choose a favourite picture book author, I think it’d have to be Oliver Jeffers. He is definitely a go-to author for me when I purchase picture books for the little ones in my life, and I finally decided to purchase my own copy of one of his books with There’s A Ghost in This House. This beautiful hardback is more of a collectors item than anything – with a stunning transparent dust jacket and pages that overlay onto beautiful drawings of a an old house. We follow a girl, who lives in a haunted house but has never seen a ghost. As you turn each transparent page, the ghosts reveal themselves on the drawings, offering a lovely engaging story.

This book is so beautiful, and will definitely be one I treasure and am happy to add to my collection. There’s also a video from the author about this book, which I’ll insert below for anyone that wants to take a look.

★★★★
5 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: The Loneliest Girl in the Universe by Lauren James

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Romy Silvers is the only surviving crew-member of a spaceship travelling to a new planet, on a mission to establish a second home for humanity amongst the stars. Alone in space, she is the loneliest girl in the universe until she hears about a new ship which has launched from Earth – with a single passenger on board. A boy called J.
Their only communication with each other is via email – and due to the distance between them, their messages take months to transmit across space. And yet Romy finds herself falling in love.
But what does Romy really know about J? And what do the mysterious messages which have started arriving from Earth really mean?
Sometimes, there’s something worse than being alone . . .

It’s been 5 years since I originally picked this book up, and it was so interesting to give this one a re-read. I wasn’t necessarily planning on picking this one back up anytime soon, but I ended up impromptu-ly buddy reading it with a friend. The first time I read this book, I finished it in a day, and I’m not surprised. I didn’t quite read it in a day this time, but I was quickly drawn back into the story and sped through it when I picked it up.

The premise for this book is interesting, and definitely keeps you reading as it becomes darker and develops into more of a thriller. However, there is a lot of plot-holes to do with the setting and situation of Romy, our main character, who has been alone in space for many years following the death of her parents. But if you manage to overlook these and not compare the book to real-life too much, it’s a highly enjoyable read.

I just want someone who holds on.

I was 17 when I read this book for the first time, and I definitely found it much easier to relate to Romy as a main character. Now I’m 22, and I must say Romy could come across as quite annoying and naive (which is natural due to her situation). I did still relate to the discussions of her anxiety, however, and felt like her panic attacks were written well and still made me feel emotionally connected to her as a character.

The setting was interesting and I could picture the spaceship well. This book clocks in at just under 300 pages so is pretty short, but there is still really only one setting throughout the story. Despite this, it kept my interest and never felt small, just right, in fact.

 Someone who won’t ever let me go, whatever tries to tear us apart. Is that too much to ask?

If you’re looking for a gripping, fast-paced YA sci-fi romance, this is definitely up there. Although I had a few more pet-peeves now than I did as a teenager, I still found this one highly enjoyable to read and was captivated by the story.

★★★★
4 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: Burn Down, Rise Up by Vincent Tirado

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For over a year, the Bronx has been plagued by sudden disappearances that no one can explain. Sixteen-year-old Raquel does her best to ignore it. After all, the police only look for the white kids. But when her crush Charlize’s cousin goes missing, Raquel starts to pay attention—especially when her own mom comes down with a mysterious illness that seems linked to the disappearances.
Raquel and Charlize team up to investigate, but they soon discover that everything is tied to a terrifying urban legend called the Echo Game. The game is rumored to trap people in a sinister world underneath the city, and the rules are based on a particularly dark chapter in New York’s past. And if the friends want to save their home and everyone they love, they will have to play the game and destroy the evil at its heart—or die trying.

I saw this book around a couple of months ago and immediately pre-ordered it. I loved the concept of this book so much, which slightly reminded me of An Absolutely Remarkable Thing, one of my favourite books. The idea of a city-wide game sounds like such a unique idea and I was super excited to find out more about the concept.

I listened to the audiobook for this one, which I must say I felt quite hard to get into. It might be more me, or the book itself, rather than the audiobook, but I often felt like I wasn’t concentrating enough on the story.

It was in ourselves, and no matter what happened,

There was definitely a horror element to this one which intrigued me, and I liked the atmosphere. This felt like a love letter to the Bronx, which I enjoyed, and I could picture the settings well. But unfortunately, I just didn’t connect to the story as much as I hoped to at all.

I liked the characters enough, but definitely didn’t feel an emotional connection to them, which I realised most when it didn’t get to me when big things happened.

that would always be part of our legacy.

Overall, this book just didn’t quite match up to expectations. I did enjoy it, but the concept was more enthralling for me than the book itself. I would read more from Tirado in the future, though!

★★★
3 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: Lore Olympus (#2) by Rachel Smythe

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Persephone was ready to start a new life when she left the mortal realm for Olympus. However, she quickly discovered the dark side of her glamorous new home—from the relatively minor gossip threatening her reputation to a realm-shattering violation of her safety by the conceited Apollo—and she’s struggling to find her footing in the fast-moving realm of the gods. Hades is also off-balance, fighting against his burgeoning feelings for the young goddess of spring while maintaining his lonely rule of the Underworld. As the pair are drawn ever closer, they must untangle the twisted webs of their past and present to build toward a new future.
This full-color edition of Smythe’s original Eisner-nominated webcomic Lore Olympus features a brand-new, exclusive short story, and brings Greek mythology into the modern age in a sharply perceptive and romantic graphic novel.

I read the first volume of Lore Olympus after my friend Amy recommended it late last year, and I was very excited to pick up volume 2. I actually preferred Volume 2 to Volume 1, which was just as beautiful but had more focus on the relationship between Persephone and Hades. I once again sped through this volume, which is detailed in drawing but doesn’t have a massive amount of text to read through.

The art is absolutely beautiful, and I loved the colour combinations once again. Each character has their own colour, which I really love as it separates each character clearly and makes it easy to focus on the story without being confused about each character.

I’m loving this series and I definitely preferred this volume to the first one, so I can’t wait to see where it goes in future volumes! Just make sure to check content warnings (which are also listed at the start of the book) if you’d like to pick it up.

★★★★★
4.5 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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