Review: Runaways Vol 1: Find Your Way Home by Rainbow Rowell and Kris Anka

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Goodreads | Waterstones

The “IT” book of the early 2000s with the original cast is back–Nico! Karolina! Molly! Chase! Old Lace! And, could it be…GERT?!
The heart of the Runaways died years ago, but you won’t believe how she returns! Superstar author Rainbow Rowell (Eleanor & Park, Carry On) makes her Marvel debut with fan-favorite artist Kris Anka (ALL-NEW X-MEN, CAPTAIN MARVEL) in the series that will shock you and break your heart! Did Chase and Gert’s love survive their time apart? Have Karolina and Nico’s feelings made their friendship impossible? What emotional landmines lie in wait to DESTROY the Runaways?!

Watch me take a side step into the word of Marvel, maybe ever so slightly encouraged by my boyfriend and the fact that Rainbow Rowell wrote these comics? I stumbled across this collection sometime last year, and became really intrigued by it. A comic by Rainbow Rowell? Count me in. After talking about it to my boyfriend Mark, and having a conversation about Rainbow’s slightly surprising pairing with Kris Anka for this collection, he decided to buy me the first two volumes for my birthday last year.

I must start by saying I absolutely adored the idea of this. A found family, who all seem completely wacky, are drawn together after years of being apart. Honestly, this cast of characters felt really reminiscent of the Scooby Doo gang for me and I’m not entirely sure why. I just feel like I can picture them all riding about in the Mystery Machine.

I also fell in love with the art style, which is so visually appealing – the colours are vibrant and really beautiful. The story itself is fast paced and entertaining, and I feel like that, along with the dialog, paints a good introductory picture of the runaways gang. I definitely think you can jump into this story as I did, with no prior knowledge of Runaways, or even Marvel at large.

There's No Place Like Home (Runaways vol. 5 #05 Review) - Comic Watch
Copyright Marvel 2018

The only qualm I had with this story is I found I didn’t feel quite as close to the characters as I’d have wanted to, and almost like I was missing something from the story itself. I’m not sure how much of this is because I was aware of this being a lets-get-the-band-back-together style sequel, or if some of it is Rowell’s writing. I’d be interested to see how differently I felt about this if I read the original series first. I would like to point out again, however, that I didn’t feel lost in the story in any way and felt like I Rowell did a really good job of rounding up the original series for us. I just felt like I couldn’t quite sympathise with the characters as much as I hoped I would.

That being said, this did include a couple of emotive scenes that melted my heart, and the whole collection made me really excited to carry on with these and find out where the Runaways story goes.

★★
3.5 out of 5 stars

-Beth

May your shelves forever overflow with books! ☽

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Review: Shadow of the Batgirl by Sarah Kuhn and Nicole Goux

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Goodreads | Waterstones

Cassandra Cain is the daughter of super-villains and a living weapon trained from birth to be the ultimate assassin. But that doesn’t mean she has to stay that way, right? She’ll have to go through an identity crisis of epic proportions to find out. But how do you figure out who you’re supposed to be when you’ve been trained to become a villain your entire life?
After a soul-shattering moment that sends Cass reeling, she’ll attempt to answer this question the only way she knows how: learning everything she possibly can about her favorite hero–Batgirl. But Batgirl hasn’t been seen in Gotham for years, and when Cass’s father threatens the world she has grown to love, she’ll have to step out of the shadows and overcome her greatest obstacle–that voice inside her head telling her she can never be a hero.

Mark has managed to choose the perfect two books to introduce me to the world of DC. I read You Brought Me the Ocean earlier this year and I absolutely adored it, and now we have this one. I love the idea of these newer DC stories being aimed at teen/young adult readers, and they suit me perfectly.

Shadow of the Batgirl follows Cassandra Cain, who is growing up and learning about herself, as well as living in a library. What’s not to love? I immediately fell for the art style and colour palette, which was vibrant and beautiful. Purples, blues and pinks are used throughout the spreads and I just adored it, I could look at the pages for hours and still find new details I didn’t spot before. The library made for such a lovely setting and was, as you can see below, portrayed so beautifully.

From Birds of Prey to Shadow of Batgirl: Meet Cassandra Cain | EW.com
Copyright DC Comics 2020

I really liked Cassandra as a character and her innocence. Throughout this story she is constantly learning more about herself and overcoming mistakes. She is also always learning from those around her and this made for a wonderful found-family. Local restaurant owner ‘Jackie’ Fujikawa Yoneyama and librarian Barbara Gordon made for slightly odd but equally likable fairy godmothers. I really loved the relationship between them both and Cassandra, and how they became the people who took her under their wings.

The combination of (very little) dialogue and beautiful, expressive illustrations made for a delightful read. I loved the artwork so much, I feel like this will become a real comfort read for me.

★★★★
4 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: You Brought Me the Ocean by Alex Sandchez and Jul Maroh

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Goodreads | Waterstones

Jake Hyde doesn’t swim—not since his father drowned. Luckily, he lives in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, which is in the middle of the desert, yet he yearns for the ocean and is determined to leave his hometown for a college on the coast. But his best friend, Maria, wants nothing more than to make a home in the desert, and Jake’s mother encourages him to always play it safe.
There’s nothing “safe” about Jake’s future—not when he’s attracted to Kenny Liu, swim team captain and rebel against conformity. And certainly not when he secretly applies to Miami University. Jake’s life begins to outpace his small town’s namesake, which doesn’t make it any easier to come out to his mom, or Maria, or the world.
But Jake is full of secrets, including the strange blue markings on his skin that glow when in contact with water. What power will he find when he searches for his identity, and will he turn his back to the current or dive headfirst into the waves? 

I’m here with my first ever DC graphic novel and I am so happy about it. My boyfriend Mark bought me this and Shadow of the Batgirl for me for Christmas and I was so excited to pick this up. Once I did, I couldn’t put this down and I sped through this in an evening. It is a stunning book with an absolutely beautiful muted, blue colour pallette that showcases Jake’s ability perfectly.

This book was so emotional, diverse and centers around a friendship. I really enjoyed that the friendship took such a big role in the story, as we don’t often see male/female protagonists as best friends. Jake is struggling with a lot of things in his life – being gay, wanting to apply to a different university to his best friend, and the strange blue markings on his skin. I really loved how this story begins completely normally, with Jake and his friend Maria on a hike in the desert where they live. We are introduced to Jake’s ability alongside him, in a cautious and uncertain manner, and I really enjoyed how it was weaved subtly throughout the story.

This is very much a coming-out story, and I really enjoyed reading about Jake and Kenny’s romance. The only slight disappointment for me was that this relationship felt a little insta-love, which I think is partly due to this being a graphic novel and therefore not giving quite as much space for the characters to get to know each other. However, I really liked the side-characters, and I loved how it included Jake’s relationships with his friend Maria’s parents. I related to some of the conversations he had with them so much, specifically because Maria’s dad said the same line as my friends dad said to me at an emotional time in my life, and therefore reading that scene made me cry!

Alex Sanchez on Crafting Aqualad's Coming Out Story in You Brought Me the  Ocean
Copyright DC Comics 2020

The diversity in this book is absolutely brilliant, with Jake being Black, Maria being Latin, Kenny being Asian and the teacher, Mrs Archer, being Native American. There was a section at the end of the graphic novel about the characters, and it included a paragraph about Mrs Archer and how important the authors felt it was to include a Native American character. On top of the diversity, You Brought Me the Ocean explores some very heavy themes, such as homophobia, bullying, physical assault, friendship issues and loss of parents.

Overall, this felt like a perfect graphic novel to introduce me to reading DC as the superhero factor takes a backseat and is definitely subtler than you may expect. This was a quick but emotional read and I really loved it!

★★★★
4.5 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: Mooncakes by Suzanne Walker + Wendy Xu

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Goodreads | Blackwells

A story of love and demons, family and witchcraft.
Nova Huang knows more about magic than your average teen witch. She works at her grandmothers’ bookshop, where she helps them loan out spell books and investigate any supernatural occurrences in their New England town.
One fateful night, she follows reports of a white wolf into the woods, and she comes across the unexpected: her childhood crush, Tam Lang, battling a horse demon in the woods. As a werewolf, Tam has been wandering from place to place for years, unable to call any town home.
Pursued by dark forces eager to claim the magic of wolves and out of options, Tam turns to Nova for help. Their latent feelings are rekindled against the backdrop of witchcraft, untested magic, occult rituals, and family ties both new and old in this enchanting tale of self-discovery.

I’ve wanted to read this since before it was released. In fact, I even had an e-arc on Netgalley, but unfortunately I couldn’t download the file for some reason. I’ve been looking for a copy ever since but could never find them, and I finally managed to get one a month or so ago! I think they’ve been reprinted as there is still a few available on Blackwell’s and Forbidden Planet if you’re looking for one.

I was a little hesitant that this wouldn’t live up to expectations as I’ve wanted to read it for over a year, but it really did. This was gorgeous. The artwork was absolutely beautiful and the colours were stunning. As soon as I opened the book I knew I was going to love the art style. I devoured this and read it in two sittings (it would have been one if I didn’t stop for a phone call in the middle!).

I loved that this was a contemporary book with paranormal elements that just feel ‘normal’ for the story. It talked about family, friendship and relationships but also demons, magic, witches and werewolves. And I felt like it just worked. Nothing felt forced, it was a perfect combination. There was also so much diversity, with Asian-American main characters, a non-binary main character, queer relationships and even a main character with a hearing impairment. This all felt natural and flowed really well in the story, but are still discussed in relation to it. Nova’s hearing impairment was discussed in relation to her magic, and is not ignored in the face of anything.

I adored everything about this. The characters are lovely and so well written – I related to them instantly and loved their relationships. The world was super interesting. The plot was adventurous, but the story didn’t shy away from important and hard-hitting discussions. The artwork was vibrant and utterly addictive. I’m so, so glad I read this, it felt like a hug, a warm blanket, a cup of hot chocolate. I feel like it’s one I will re-read again and again!

★★★★
5 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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