Finally Joined Bookstagram

During this hell year of 2020, I’ve finally committed to starting a bookstagram. I like posting on twitter about what I read anyway, so I thought, “Why not take some pretty pictures too?” I’m going to occasionally post collections of the mini-reviews I write on Instagram here too.

You can follow me on Instagram @thealmightypencil, to see the books I’m reading and the craft projects I’m working on. Drop your Bookstagram handle in the comments and I’ll give you a follow!

Reading Round Up #3: Poetry

To Love the Coming End by Leanne Dunic

TLtCEcoverThis novel in verse tells the story of a narrator mourning the loss of their lover in the 2011 Tsunami that hit Japan. Through poetic fragments of memories, history, and ghosts, Dunic captures the narrator’s journey and how the supernatural informs Japanese culture.

Dunic’s book is something that you’re going to read again and again. Each time I reread it, I found new connections and layers. It is a mysterious, magical little book that shows how the ordinary and extraordinary are intertwined. And to top it off, the language is beautiful, haunting, and full of voice. I cannot recommend this book enough, to lovers of poetry, Asian culture, ghost stories, or well-crafted language.

Mole People by Heather Cox

mole peopleA man in a cafe finding mysterious drawings, memories of a World War, mole people living under the Thames are just some of the things in this enigmatic, haunting chapbook. I thoroughly enjoyed every word, but it definitely is one that requires more than one read. It slips a gritty, underground Wonderland lens over London.

Worth mentioning, the publisher is BatCat Press, which is entirely run by high school students from Lincoln Park Performing Arts Charter School who HAND MAKE every book. Check out their website because their books are BEAUTIFUL! And if Mole People is any indication, very high-quality work. Mole People says so much in every word. It’s somber, strange, and so moving.

I am Sorry for Everything in the Whole Universe
by Kyle Flak

Flak-Cover-Final-Front

The first poem in this collection suggests you might be better off going on a fun road trip instead of reading it. The following poems are filled with everything–Mondays, childhood memories, dijon mustard, thoughts on Hemingway and Carver, yellow dresses, and secret sex parties, and so many other things I cannot list them here.

Flak’s work really resonated with me as a relatively new writer. I often question if my poetry is beautiful/profound/clever/whatever enough. But as one of the reviewers said, “Finally, a poet who has no idea what poetry is.” Flak’s poems are funny, funky, and just fun. His work taught me that poetry is more than I think it is and encourages me to embrace my own voice and most importantly, just have fun.

I want to end this post with a small passage from Flak’s collection (And sorry Flak, WordPress won’t let me format your work properly). Feel free to share your favorite poetry in the comments.

Bernadette Mayer once wrote in one of her poems something / about how certain writers used to be called “candle / wasters”

I don’t know if that’s true

but if it is

I always want to be a candle waster

because I am a human fucking being

not a robot

and everybody’s got stuff to say

that only a blank page

would ever

bother

to listen to

-“I love that one poem by Raymond Carver” by Kyle Flak

Reading Round-Up #2 — Comics that AREN’T Superheroes

Welcome back! This blog is part of a series on what I’ve been reading lately (Check out part 1 on young adult books). As a comic fan, I am contractually obligated to get everyone I know to read comics. My friends will always throw up the “But I don’t like superheroes” defense. You fools! There as many different comic genres as regular book genres! So this Reading Round-Up for all those interested in comics, but maybe not the ever-expanding, ever-contradicting world of superhero comics. All of these books are self-contained within their own series. All you got to do is order issue 1 to join us.

join us

moonstruck-1_f762cf46adMoonstruck Vol 1: Magic to Brew

Julie is just your normal werewolf barista who gets flustered around her crush Selena and accidentally gets her friends cursed.

ADORABLE, is the perfect word for Moonstruck. The art is cute (and diverse!), the story a fun adventure, the love story feel-good and warm (and queer!), and the characters absolutely loveable. There are rocker gorgons, college fratboy fairies, prophecizing baristas, and my favorite, the happy-go-lucky centaur Chet. Moonstruck is for anyone who loves magic and wants a fun romp.

Written by Grace Ellis, art by Shae Beagle and a whole talented team.

81xdabagn8lHead Lopper & The Island or A Plague of Beasts 

Norgal, better known as the swordsman Head Lopper, does exactly as his name implies. He kicks ass and takes heads. This particular adventure has Norgal on the island Barra, sent by their queen to kill the Sorcerer of the Black Bog. However, his quest is not quite as simple as Norgal assumes. There are unknown dangers, treacherous advisors, and ancient orders of witches.

Head Lopper is bloody, but fun, adventure story with heavy Nordic influences. I could easily Head Lopper as a video game, where the hero is walking into a complex world already in motion. The action sequences are stunning and the side characters surprisingly complex. My favorite is the bitter, sarcastic witch’s head Norgal carries around.  While it is a series, the first volume is a complete adventure. It’s nice not to be left on a cliff hanger.

Story and art by Andrew Maclean, color by Mike Spicer.

81ieh5ruevlTaproot

The budding romance between a ghost and a gardener is threatened when a dark forest starts to appear.

A sweet, queer love story, Taproot is a soft-spoken story. Really, anyone who enjoys drawings of plants is going to love this one. The art is beautiful. The love story is super sweet too but has some darker moments that gives you all of the feels. It’s also a graphic novel so its a stand-alone story. Would recommend for anyone who likes a heart-warming read.

Story and art by Keezy Young.

 

51eertetuql._sx323_bo1204203200_Rock Candy Mountain Volume 1

An unbeatable man, Hobo Jackson, is trying to find the mythical Rocky Candy Mountain and brings the unluckiest man alive, Pomona Slim with him. Meanwhile, the hobo mafia, the FBI, and the literal Devil are on his tail.

Rock Candy Mountain is a great mix of comedy and adventure. It really is a wild west story, but with hobos instead of cowboys. All I can say is it’s a wild time and you should read it. There are only two volumes so it’s a quick read (still got to get vol 2!).

Story and art by Kyle Starks, color by Chris Schweizer.

51mfwvsyr4l._sx258_bo1204203200_SuperMutant Magic Academy

So on paper, it’s about a magic school and the misadventures of its student body. Harry Potter, but more high school drama with crushes, D&D, puberty, and performance art rather than epic quests to defeat evil wizards. Sounds like a fun young adult read, right?

However, the entire graphic novel is told in comic strips that are maybe two pages max, a single image at their shortest. It’s like Peanuts, but with high schoolers, magic, and the most absurdist, bizarre sense of humor. The result is a collection that is more than the sum of its parts. As you read, you get to know students like Wendy, Frances, Cheddar, and Marsha. You’re privy to their funny stories and their heartbreak. And by the end, you’ve connected with something, whether it’s the characters, life as a teenager, the greater entropy of the universe.

Story and art by Jillian Tamaki.

Do you have any favorite comics and graphic novels that aren’t superheroes? Tell me about them in the comments!

 

Reading Round Up #1 – Young Adult

The semester is finally over! Now I have time to tell you all about the books I’ve been reading.

518iftlvnol._sx327_bo1204203200_Bone Gap by Laura Ruby

Finn is the local strange kid in his rural town of Bone Gap, Illinois. The book opens some months after Roza, the close friend and roommate of Finn and his brother, has disappeared. While everyone else has given up, Finn believes Roza is still out there, kidnapped by a mysterious man.

I can’t really say anymore than that without spoilers, because this book is nothing what it seems. It’s beautiful, heartfelt, and very, very strange. Would recommend for anyone who likes character driven stories with a magical twist. The prose is a bit heftier than usual YA books, but Ruby’s use of language is so rich. Her use of imagery and clever foreshadowing really gives the characters and world a whimsical feel and great depth.

51u0ltozipl._sx329_bo1204203200_Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds

Dante’s Inferno meets a Christmas Carol, this novel in poetry follows one elevator ride, during which the protagonist, Will, must decide whether to avenge his brother Shawn. Will gets into the elevator convinced he is going to kill his brother’s murderer, but by the end he isn’t so sure.

This story is truly meant to be told in poetry. Reynolds’s conversational, emotionally raw style conveys the voice of the narrator honestly. He also uses the size, shape, and space between words to create tone, rhythm, and flow. Not to mention the characters are so rounded, flawed, and fascinating. Even if you don’t like poetry–Read. This. Book. I would say it is a perfect for both poetry lovers and people who don’t even like reading because it goes by so fast.

33830830The Devils You Know by M.C. Atwood

Five teens enter Boulder House, a tourist attraction that is part museum, part maze, part crazy fun house, where they are trapped by a demon. Despite being drastically different, and often in opposition to each other, they must work together and confront their own demons to escape.

A fun ride, is a perfect description of Atwood’s YA horror novel. The characters have unique personalities and there’s always a different crazy monster or obstacle around the corner. The novel flies by, partly because it continuously switches between the five perspectives of the main characters. I would recommend this novel to anyone who loves a supernatural adventure.

91x3tjpbsmlThe Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert 

Alice and her mother have always been chased by bad luck. After her grandmother, the reclusive author of a book of dark fairy tales with a cult following, dies, Alice’s mother thinks their bad luck is over. However, it only gets worse. Her mother disappears and Alice starts seeing her grandmother’s fairy tales come to life. Along with a super-fan from her school, Finch, Alice must find her grandmother’s estate, the Hazel Wood, to find her mother and solve the mystery of her family’s past.

The Hazel Wood is one of my favorite twisted fairy tale stories because it captures the essence of fairy tales, but instead of retelling old tales, Albert invents new ones. Her tales are dark and imaginative. The world pulls you in. There is an ominous atmosphere to the whole book. The stakes feel real. Also, the characters are real standouts. Alice is fierce and independent, but her brashness makes her flawed. Her chemistry with Finch, a sweet but sheltered rich boy, is natural and fun. They balance each other nicely. This novel is great to anyone who loves fairy tales, but also darker adventures.

51iwzpshkpl._sx346_bo1204203200_The 57 Bus by Dashka Slater

This is the true story of Sasha and Richard. Both teens living in Oakland, CA. Sasha is nonbinary, from a middle class, white family, attends private school. Richard is young black man from an area plagued by gang violence and crime doing his best to stay on the right path. One day, while both taking the same bus home, Richard sets Sasha’s skirt on fire.

I read nonfiction very rarely, but I could not put Dashka’s book down. Her writing carries a journalistic style, but she chooses all of the right details and quotes that let the story tell itself. The reader can read what Sasha, Richard, their parents, the local justice department, and everyone involved has to say for themselves. I would recommend this book to anyone with a natural curiosity to learn about the social issues of today, whether its gender, race, or the justice system. Even if you think your opinions on these issues are set in stone, I would ask you to give The 57 Bus a try. Despite the heavy politics involved by the nature of the story, the book never forgets that its characters are human.

51mb-gczedl._sx331_bo1204203200_Ash by Malinda Lo 

Ash is a retelling of Cinderella, but that description does not do this book justice. Yes, it takes elements of the original–the sweet orphan girl, the evil stepmother, the prince’s ball–but it weaves those elements and the spirit of fairy tales into an imaginative, original story about a a girl yearning for freedom, a mysterious young Fae man, and the King’s Huntress.

Ash is a quiet book, but I think it’s one that surprises you in subtle ways by subverting the typical fairy tale. It’s so refreshing to see a story where the Fae are beauitful and dangerous.  It stays with you because the characters are so memorable, it’s not a “the girl gets everything in the ending” story, and the love story is so honest. Trust me, unnecessary romantic plots are my pet peeve, but this one is done so wonderfully because it, like everything, always comes back to how it changes the protagonist and what the story is ultimately saying. And don’t worry, it’s not a prince gets the girl type of love story. 😉

 

REVIEW: Pretend We Live Here

Pretend_We_Live_Here_Cover_041818_JVWHad the pleasure of reading and reviewing Pretend We Live Here by Genevieve Hudson (published by Future Tense Books) for Glassworks literary magazine. I really enjoyed Hudson’s collection of short fiction. It’s filled with sharp edged prose and queer characters, questioning what home means in sense of place, but also self.

Check out my full review on the Glassworks website: http://www.rowanglassworks.org/book-reviews/review-pretend-we-live-here.