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: 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: 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: 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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Review: Princess Princess Ever After by Kay O’Neill

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When the heroic princess Amira rescues the kind-hearted princess Sadie from her tower prison, neither expects to find a true friend in the bargain. Yet as they adventure across the kingdom, they discover that they bring out the very best in the other person. They’ll need to join forces and use all the know-how, kindness, and bravery they have in order to defeat their greatest foe yet: a jealous sorceress, who wants to get rid of Sadie once and for all. Join Sadie and Amira, two very different princesses with very different strengths, on their journey to figure out what “happily ever after” really means—and how they can find it with each other.

I read The Tea Dragon Society last year and absolutely loved it, and quickly knew I wanted to read all of Kay O’Neill’s back catalog. When I recently came across Princess Princess Ever After in Gay’s the Word in London (a brilliant independent LGBTQIA+ bookshop I’d highly recommend), I decided to pick it up. This one is super short at only 80 pages, and is following Sadie and Amira, two princesses as they adventure across the kingdom and attempt to defeat a jealous sorceress.

This one was very short and sweet, with a beautiful art style and some great dialogue that made me chuckle along the way. The romance was so cute and left me feeling very happy at the end of the story. I’m so excited to track down a copy of Aquarian Cove, the only graphic novel by Kay O’Neill that I have yet to read.

★★★★
4 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: Paper Girls Vol 1 by Brian K. Vaughan

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In the early hours after Halloween of 1988, four 12-year-old newspaper delivery girls uncover the most important story of all time. Suburban drama and otherworldly mysteries collide in this smash-hit series about nostalgia, first jobs, and the last days of childhood.

I’ve been wanting to pick up Paper Girls for a long time, having seen it around everywhere and heard many recommendations for it. My boyfriend, Mark, bought me the first volume for my birthday last year, and I finally decided to read it. I’ve heard Paper Girls be compared to Stranger Things, and I loved the parallels between the 1980s paranormal sci-fi you can see in both series.

My brain hasn’t been able to focus much on reading lately, so picking up a graphic novel was just such a great format to be able to sit and digest in half an hour. The text is clear and well spaced, and isn’t overwhelming in the least. It’s also complemented well by a beautiful colour palette and striking illustrations.

I loved the group of characters, who are absolutely badass as a group but are also brilliantly bold with one another. At first, I was a little concerned about some comments one of the characters makes, but this is immediately called out.

This one definitely kept me on the edge of my seat and I loved the mixture of paranormal and real-life 80s neighbourhood. The ending and last few panels left me needing the next volume immediately!

★★★★★
4.5 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: Tea Dragon Trilogy by Kay O’Neill

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From the award-winning author of Princess Princess Ever After comes The Tea Dragon Society, a charming all-ages book that follows the story of Greta, a blacksmith apprentice, and the people she meets as she becomes entwined in the enchanting world of tea dragons.
After discovering a lost tea dragon in the marketplace, Greta learns about the dying art form of tea dragon care-taking from the kind tea shop owners, Hesekiel and Erik. As she befriends them and their shy ward, Minette, Greta sees how the craft enriches their lives—and eventually her own. 

This review will be for the entire Tea Dragon trilogy.

I’ve heard so many amazing things about this graphic novel series and I honestly fell in love with it. We follow Greta, who learns about the art of caring for tea dragons. She meets so many beautiful people along the way and some gorgeous tea dragons too.

I absolutely adored the tea dragons in these books. They all have their own personalities and their stories allow for some really important discussions about grief and loss.

The illustrations in this are absolutely to die for, and the panels are so creatively drawn. I absolutely love the colour palettes, especially in The Tea Dragon Tapestry, which is the latest book and the most autumnal. Although the books all follow a variety of seasons, but the last one definitely feels the most autumnal and the entire series is perfect to read at this time of year!

The diversity throughout these books was incredible and felt so natural. We have a character who uses a wheelchair, a character who uses sign language (and this was so seamlessly woven into the story!), a non-binary character, a range of sexualities and identities!

Overall, I just absolutely loved these books so much and I would highly recommend them to anyone who feels like they may enjoy reading them. It felt like such a big and warm hug and is so easy to fall in love with.

★★★★★
5 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: The Sad Ghost Club by Lize Meddings

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Ever felt anxious or alone? Like you don’t belong anywhere? Like you’re almost… invisible? Find your kindred spirits at The Sad Ghost Club.
This is the story of one of those days – a day so bad you can barely get out of bed, when it’s a struggle to leave the house, and when you do, you wish you hadn’t. But even the worst of days can surprise you. When one sad ghost, lost and alone at a crowded party, spies another sad ghost across the room, they decide to leave together. What happens next changes everything. Because that night they start the The Sad Ghost Club – a secret society for the anxious and alone, a club for people who think they don’t belong.

This book is like a warm hug. It was so pure and honest and I just absolutely loved it. I picked this graphic novel up a while ago as I kept seeing recommendations for it, and finally decided to read it in one sitting. The illustrations were so beautiful and fit this story perfectly, they felt so soft and gentle. The main character is such an honest and heartwarming focus for the book and I feel like their story is such a beautiful one. The depiction of anxiety, depression and loneliness felt so visceral and honest, and I definitely related to how deflated the ghost felt.

I feel like this is the kind of book you can’t help but rate 5 stars, simply for the amount of people this book will help. For all the people who won’t feel quite so alone by reading it.

★★★★★
5 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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

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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

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