Tag Archives: graphic novel

ARC Review – The City on the Other Side by Mairghread Scott & Robin Robinson

Title: The City on the Other Side

Author: Mairghread Scott & Robin Robinson

Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: The first decade of the twentieth century is coming to a close, and San Francisco is still recovering from the great earthquake of 1906. Isabel watched the destruction safely from her window, sheltered within her high-society world.

Isabel isn’t the kind of girl who goes on adventures. But that all changes when she stumbles through the invisible barrier that separates the human world from the fairy world. She quickly finds herself caught up in an age-old war and fighting on the side of the Seelie — the good fairies.

Huge thank you to First Second for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

City on the Other Side was a graphic novel I knew nothing about that happened to show up on my door step. It tells the story of a girl named Isabel who is very sheltered, but after a large scale earthquake, decides she may in fact be ready for adventure.

Isabel is a character I think many readers will easily be able to relate to. She’s shy and nervous, but she grows through the course of the story. Stepping through an invisible barrier, Isabel is transported to a new world where fairies lay. Over the course of the story we see her befriending the fairies and trying to make sense of the difference between the fairy world and where the humans reside.

I have to say, I really liked the artwork in this graphic novel. It’s whimsical, the colours used really pop off the page. There is just so much energy in both the story and the panels, making City on the Other Side a lot of fun to read. The one thing I wish though was that it was just a bit longer. I feel like there was definitely potential to expand the story in different areas, but that’s more of a minor complaint.

If you want to read a great graphic novel with a reluctant, but lovable heroine, please check out City on the Other Side. It’s a great story for younger and older readers alike.

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ARC Review – Be Prepared by Vera Brosgol

Title: Be Prepared

Author: Vera Brosgol

Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis: All Vera wants to do is fit in—but that’s not easy for a Russian girl in the suburbs. Her friends live in fancy houses and their parents can afford to send them to the best summer camps. Vera’s single mother can’t afford that sort of luxury, but there’s one summer camp in her price range—Russian summer camp.

Vera is sure she’s found the one place she can fit in, but camp is far from what she imagined. And nothing could prepare her for all the “cool girl” drama, endless Russian history lessons, and outhouses straight out of nightmares!

Huge thank you to Raincoast for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

I didn’t know much about Be Prepared when it was sent to me. I know it was autobiographical and about a summer camp. What I didn’t realize, was just how much I would be nodding along to a lot of what Vera did during her four weeks at camp.

I went to summer camp exactly one time, and it was an experience I didn’t care for. Part of that was because I struggled to make friends with a lot of the girls there, the other being that I had felt left out a lot of the time. I remember I was going through a lot when it came to my friendships, and that just made going to summer camp a heck of a lot worse.

Vera’s story about going to Russian camp hit home with me on numerous occasions because she struggles to make friends and enjoy the activities. She feels constantly left out and when she does try to make friends and connect with the other girls, it backfires in her face a lot of the time. I could connect with her 100% throughout this graphic memoir, and seeing a lot of her struggles reminded me of my own experience. However, there’s a lot of fun in this story as well, particularly when Vera begins to not give a crap about the people who have made her feel unwanted. Also when she befriends Kira at the end, you get reminded that some of the worse experiences can often give you the best friendships.

I loved the artwork in this graphic novel. The characters are very expressive, the backgrounds are quite detailed, and Brosgol’s art just transports you to the summer camp. I look forward to seeing how the colour treatment is going to look given my ARC was mostly in black and white (which even then it looked fantastic!).

Be Prepared brought up a lot of mixed memories for me, and I think that’s why I adored it as much as I did. I felt connected to Vera and I understood where she was coming from in terms of being an awkward kid who just wanted to please others in order to make friends. This middle grade graphic novel is great for anyone who wants to relive their summer camp days, or who just want to have an honest discussion of what it means to accept and love yourself for who you are.

ARC Review – Speak: The Graphic Novel by Laurie Halse Anderson & Emily Carroll

Title: Speak: The Graphic Novel

Author: Laurie Halse Anderson & Emily Carroll

Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis: “Speak up for yourself-we want to know what you have to say.” From the first moment of her freshman year at Merryweather High, Melinda knows this is a big fat lie, part of the nonsense of high school. She is friendless–an outcast–because she busted an end-of-summer party by calling the cops, so now nobody will talk to her, let alone listen to her. Through her work on an art project, she is finally able to face what really happened that night: She was raped by an upperclassman, a guy who still attends Merryweather and is still a threat to her. With powerful illustrations by Emily Carroll Speak: The Graphic Novel comes alive for new audiences and fans of the classic novel.

Huge thank you to Raincoast for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

Speak is one of my all-time favourite young adult novels. It’s a book that has stuck with me for so many years, offering a raw and open look at what it means to be a victim of sexual assault and the challenges of speaking up. This graphic novel version by Laurie Halse Anderson and Emily Carroll transplants this powerful story using a whole new medium.

This graphic novel version of Speak has such breathtaking artwork throughout, and I feel like Emily Carroll did an amazing job capturing Melinda’s story through her art, showcasing the torture and sadness in a way that readers will easily be able to relate to. I loved the way the art captures the sections where Melinda is working on her trees for Mr. Freeman’s class, or how demonic Andy Evans is portrayed in the artwork. The artistic layering is woven perfectly with the story, and you can feel the passion of both the writing and the art working together.

I also appreciate how well the story translated into a graphic novel. I loved how well condensed the story was from the original. The writing was constantly on point, never missing a beat, and for such a large graphic novel, it’s not bloated in any way. You can sense all of Melinda’s emotions, you feel her pain, and that is why Speak is still relevant years later.

If you’ve never read Speak before, I implore you to do it. Read the original, watch the movie, read this version. Speak is such an important story that has continued to stay relevant, and I love that this graphic novel exists, if only to add a new layer to this already powerful story. Definitely check this out.

ARC Review – Mighty Jack and the Goblin King (Mighty Jack #2) by Ben Hatke

Title: Mighty Jack and the Goblin King

Author: Ben Hatke

Rating: ★★★★ 1/2

Synopsis: Like a bolt from the blue, Jack’s little sister Maddy is gone—carried into another realm by an ogre.

When Jack and Lilly follow Maddy’s captor through the portal, they are ready for anything . . . except what they find waiting for them in the floating crossroads between worlds. Even the power of their magic plants may not be enough to get them back to earth alive.

Alone and injured, Jack and Lilly must each face their own monsters—as well as giants who grind the bones of human children to feed their “beast” and a fearsome goblin king in the sewers down below.

But when Jack finds himself in a tough spot, help comes from the most unlikely person: the goblin king!

Huge thank you to First Second & Raincoast for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

Mighty Jack was one of my favourite graphic novels from last year. This is a series full of heart, compassion, humour and action. This book immediately picks up where the previous left off with Jack trying to save his autistic sister, Maddy, and coming to terms with the fact that Lily… Lily might be the love of his life!

Ben Hatke is such a talented artist and writer. I always find when I read one of his stories I get completely sucked in, needing to know every detail regardless of how big or small it is. I also love how he fleshes out his character, each one feeling so believable. I also love inMighty Jack how fearless and true-to-themselves both Jack and Lily are. Maddy is easily a favourite and I think she is written with such love and care. Mighty Jack also sports such vibrant and colourful the artwork. If there is one thing I love about Hatke’s art, it’s that his worlds and characters always look and feel well-realized.

Mighty Jack and the Goblin King is such an action-packed adventure for readers of all ages. It’s accessible, adventurous, heart-warming and just pure fun. The ending of this installment was also epic, and I NEED that crossover to be real, because if it isn’t I feel like my heart is going to be toyed with.

Frankly, I just want more in this series. While the ending is very solid, I feel like I’d tune in no matter how many volumes Ben Hatke creates.

ARC Review – Thornhill by Pam Smy

Title: Thornhill

Author: Pam Smy

Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: 1982: Mary is a lonely orphan at the Thornhill Institute For Children at the very moment that it’s shutting its doors. When her few friends are all adopted or re-homed and she s left to face a volatile bully alone, her revenge will have a lasting effect on the bully, on Mary, and on Thornhill itself.

2016: Ella has just moved to a new town where she knows no one. From her room on the top floor of her new home, she has a perfect view of the dilapidated, abandoned Thornhill Institute across the way, where she glimpses a girl in the window. Determined to befriend the girl, Ella resolves to unravel Thornhill’s shadowy past.

Huge thank you to Raincoast for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

Thornhill is easily the creepiest middle grade book I’ve read. Hands down. It’s a book that is spooky, unnerving, and heartbreaking. It’s a story from two perspectives, Mary Baines who is writing a diary in 1982 while living in Thornhill Institute, and in present day we have Ella, who has moved next door to the historical site and becomes entranced by the idea of uncovering the mystery behind the building.

What makes this novel even more interesting is that Mary’s sections are written as a diary, and Ella’s are fully illustrated without dialogue. Mary’s sections are difficult to read given they focus on her lack of friendship, her deeply rooted abandonment problems, and that she has been bullied her whole life. Her diary entries are dark and uncomfortable to read. You really feel for her even though towards the end of the book you see that her sanity and emotions are deteriorating. I really felt for her.

Meanwhile, Ella continues to see Mary from her window, which is why she becomes fascinated by Thornhill. She even breaks in the abandoned building because she is convinced she has seen a young girl from her window. She leaves Mary messages and gifts. She wants to befriend her. What I loved in Ella’s sections is that Smy’s illustrations do a great job of capturing the emotions and intent behind the story. You get a sense that Ella has empathy for Mary and wants to gain a sense of understanding so many years later. The art is mostly great, though it has some awkward moments as well.

Thornhill is a book that is very dark and comes from a deeply emotional place. It’s not for reader’s looking for a whimsy time, and that’s where I’d recommend this to older middle grade readers who can understand concepts such as bullying and death. The ending hurts, and there’s no other way to describe it. Pam Smy’s Thornhill is a unique but difficult read. Reader’s need to be in a particular headspace to really grasp how loaded this story truly is.

ARC Review – Fetch: How a Bad Dog Brought Me Home by Nicole J. Georges

Title: Fetch: How a Bad Dog Brought Me Home

Author: Nicole J. Georges

Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: When Nicole Georges was sixteen she adopted Beija, a dysfunctional shar-pei/corgi mix—a troublesome combination of tiny and attack, just like teenaged Nicole herself. For the next fifteen years, Beija would be the one constant in her life. Through depression, relationships gone awry, and an unmoored young adulthood played out against the backdrop of the Portland punk scene, Beija was there, wearing her “Don’t Pet Me” bandana.   Georges’s gorgeous graphic novel Fetch chronicles their symbiotic, codependent relationship and probes what it means to care for and be responsible to another living thing—a living thing that occasionally lunges at toddlers. Nicole turns to vets, dog whisperers, and even a pet psychic for help, but it is the moments of accommodation, adaption, and compassion that sustain them. Nicole never successfully taught Beija “sit,” but in the end, Beija taught Nicole how to stay.

Huge thank you to Raincoast for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

I knew this book was going to emotionally wreck me. This is the story of Nicole J. Georges and her dog, Beija. Beija is a shar-pei/corgi mix with some behavioral troubles. She’s not comfortable with people petting her, she’s somewhat aggressive when people emit different kinds of energy levels. She is constantly told by people that she is a horrible, no good, bad dog. However, reading this graphic memoir you can see through Nicole George’s perspective that Beija is also a misunderstood dog.

As someone who owns a bulldog, I actually found myself understanding where the author was coming from. It’s hard because in some circumstances you understand why people see and say what they do when they think something is wrong with a dog’s behavior, but the fault in that is that often people don’t give certain breeds of dog a chance to become better.

It’s very evident in this story how much the author loved her dog and how much her dog helped me with a dark period of her life. Animals have magic powers in this regard, they know when their companion needs them and will do anything to try and make things better. I also loved the artwork in this graphic memoir. It’s got great visual appeal and the author does an amazing job of illustrating the story that she wanted to tell.

I really loved this story, and I definitely want to check out more of Nicole J Georges graphic memoirs. Fetch is both funny as it is heartbreaking, and if you are an animal lover and owner it will probably make you cry. I know I did.

ARC Review – Spill Zone by Scott Westerfeld, Alex Puvilland, & Hilary Sycamore

Title: Spill Zone

Author: Scott Westerfeld, Alex Puvilland, & Hilary Sycamore

Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: Nobody’s ever really explained the Spill. Was it an angelic visitation? A nanotech accident? A porthole opening from another world? Whatever it was, no one’s allowed in the Spill Zone these days except government scientists and hazmat teams. But a few intrepid explorers know how to sneak through the patrols and steer clear of the dangers inside the Zone. Addison Merrick is one such explorer, dedicated to finding out what happened that night, and to unraveling the events that took her parents and left her little sister mute and disconnected from the world.

Huge thank you to Raincoast for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

I. hate. creepy dolls. I’ve never been a fan of the living doll trope that exists in horror, mostly because I am a wuss. Also because I love toys and the idea of them being murderous or possessed frightens me. Which brings me to The Spill Zone, Scott Westerfeld’s latest effort that is both intriguing and creepy as all hell.

I will admit that it took me awhile to get into the artwork of The Spill Zone. It’s something I didn’t warm up to until I was about half way through because there are moments where some panels look very rushed or not proportioned right. I generally don’t mind a sketched style, but it’s definitely something where the end of the book looks far cleaner than the beginning. Since this was an ARC there were only a few colour panels, so I’d be interested to see the colour choices given that the colour panels that did exist in the ARC really popped!

But the story, oh my goodness, the story — creepy, disturbed, and it ended on a horrible cliffhanger that made me wish I had the second book. Vespertine the doll gave me the willies and made me so uncomfortable most of the time. I felt bad for Addison’s sister Lexa, who still can’t talk about life after “The Spill.” Addi’s taking photos illegally, risking her own life to get the perfect shot. I feel like this first installment didn’t give me enough of the characters, and while I enjoyed their presence, I can only hope book two will give more information about Addi and Lexa’s past beyond the snippet we get here in book one.

The Spill Zone is a very fast-paced graphic novel, and one that just oozes with creepiness. There’s interesting plot developments and characters, which I am sure will get more developed when the time comes. There’s an interesting world at play in The Spill Zone and I am curious as to where Westerfeld plans to take this story further.