Book Review – The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang

The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang



The Prince and the Dressmaker is about two young individuals: Frances, a seamstress with dreams of becoming a designer, and Sebastian, a prince who feels more comfortable as a girl. The two meet and give each other the opportunity to make more of themselves, and perhaps find themselves in the process.

This is an amazing graphic novel, and such a cute story! I loved Wang’s art style – very fluid and colorful, but also putting so much expression into the characters. I thought that Frances and Sebastian were particularly adorable. And, of course, the dresses were stunning. I am so jealous of the prince’s wardrobe!

I think I can relate to Frances a lot, especially now in my life where I am trying to find out what I want to be doing and who I want there with me.

The story went in a bit of a different direction than I was expecting, though I’m not sure what I was expecting to begin with. It’s just such a lovely story about two young people trying to find their place in the world, but also trying to find their real selves. I think everyone needs a story like this: something that gives hope, that reminds one of all the love there is to give. I was very pleased with the ending as well – we need more happy endings.

And last, but not least, is the queer representation. I’m not sure if Sebastian is meant to be trans or not, but either way, portraying men wearing dresses in such a positive way is so important.

I can’t wait to pick up some more of Jen Wang’s work!

I recommend this book to everyone who wants a bit of hope and love in their life.



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Book Review – The Daughters of Ys by M.T. Anderson and Jo Rioux

The Daughters of Ys by M.T. Anderson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Daughters of Ys by M.T. Anderson


The Daughters of Ys is based on a Breton tale, and includes (at least what I think is) Celtic folklore. In this story, two young women are the princesses of the mythical kingdom of Ys, the daughters of a king and a sorceress. Rozenn, the older daughter, loves solitude and a more wild life. Dahut, the younger, gains the abilities of her mother and craves the power and rule of the kingdom. Both sisters must reconcile not only their differences, but their own lives in order to save their kingdom and their people.

I am a huge fan of Celtic and folklore retellings, and this one was superbly done. Rozenn is not from the original story, rather from the opera by Lalo, but I can see why the authors chose to include her. In the original story, Dahut is lost to the sea, seemingly without redemption for her deeds. Here, at least one daughter gets to live and prosper, though Dahut does get a chance at an afterlife of her own. I love how different the sisters are and why they are made to decide what they decide. Ultimately, they must reckon with powers beyond their control – powers that include references to Faerie, Celtic deities and monsters, and others.
I also liked the portrayal of the liminality between Celtic and Christian mythology, as at the time that this story would take place, Christianity was just peeking its head into a larger world.

I absolutely have to talk about the art. Jo Rioux has a gorgeous art style that reminds me a lot of the art style from the Cartoon Saloon films The Secret of Kells and Song of the Sea, very much in tune with the Celtic and mythological themes, as well as the liminality between the human and the spiritual world.
A lot of this graphic novel has to do with the sea, and Rioux presents even things that aren’t the sea – the shadows and plants and architecture – as a flowing substance that envelops the surroundings and its characters.

I recommend this amazing graphic novel to those who love mythological retellings, and those who like films like The Secret of Kells.



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Book Review – No Ivy League by Hazel Newlevant

No Ivy League by Hazel Newlevant

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

No Ivy League by Hazel Newlevant



No Ivy League by Hazel Newlevant is based on the author’s true story of when they spent a summer as a teenager working at the “No Ivy League”. The “No Ivy League” hired teens to strip invasive ivy from the forests of Oregon. During their time there, Hazel, who had been home-schooled, met other teens who not only had the experience of high school that they did not, but who also came from different, diverse backgrounds that they were not used to. This graphic novel illustrates how much they learned about themself, their privilege, and how to be with other teens.


I picked up this book at Antigone Books when I was visiting Tucson, Arizona. I was first drawn by Newlevant’s art style, which is absolutely beautiful. I really want to check out more of their work, if only to just look at their beautiful drawings. Each chapter has illustrations of the ivy that Hazel had to pull, and most of the book, because it is monochrome, relies a lot on shadows, which I think worked so well for showing the emotions of the characters.

The reason I gave this book three stars really is just because I don’t think I’m the target audience for this book. I did enjoy the story, and it was a neat glimpse into someone’s life and growth. However, I think this book would be great for people just getting out of high school or just starting college or whatever path they choose to take in their early 20s. I’m quite a bit past that age, but I still found this story a deep and meaningful experience.

No Ivy League was a quick and fun read, and I recommend to anyone in their teens/early 20s, or even those who just need to check their privilege.



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Book Review – Through the Woods by Emily Carroll

Through the Woods

Through the Woods by Emily Carroll

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


If I had to pick a word to describe Through the Woods it would be gorgeous. I am always looking for new fairy tale and folklore retellings with horrific twists, and this gorgeous book did not at all disappoint. Through the Woods consists of seven tales, each one encapsulating some fear that we all see lurking in the heart of fairy tales.


The first tale simply illustrates the fear of what could be hiding under the bed.
The second, a sort of retelling of Little Red Riding Hood, illustrates the harshness of winter and the fear of possibly losing one’s family.


The third could be a retelling of any number of tales, including Bluebeard, The Fall of the House of Usher and the Tell Tale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe, and vampire stories. The fear expressed here is the uncertainty of an arranged marriage – and of course the odd fear of the dead wife coming back for vengeance.


The fourth shows a man’s fear when a seemingly perfect copy of his brother comes back from the dead. Invasion of the body snatchers? Perhaps!


The fifth story is all about ghosts and spiritualism, both the reality and fears that come with it. A young woman who pretends to commune with ghosts. Her friend who can actually see ghosts. Who is more afraid?


The sixth story is similar to the fourth in body-snatching, albeit a bit more gruesome. The creatures featured in this story are what I would associate to the term “skin-walkers.” The fear here is, again, losing one’s family – and perhaps even oneself – and not being able to trust those around you.

he last story, which is not really a story, more of a moral, reiterates one of the big themes of all the stories in this book: getting lost in the woods, and either coming out different, or being eaten by the wolf.

I read this book so quickly, that’s how good the stories were – I didn’t want to put them down for a moment. And Carroll’s illustrations and art in this book had me absolutely entranced. I honestly may go back and just look at the art. It sets the moods of each story so well, readers will be mesmerized and enchanted, just as one would venturing into the strange woods that star in each story. I would love to see Carroll create more tales like this. It is the perfect bedtime story, and the perfect midwinter read.
I recommend Through the Woods to those who love fairy tale and folklore, who want to explore fears a bit, and who want to get lost in a good and gorgeous book.



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Mooncakes – Extended Review

“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.” – Taken from the summary on Goodreads.

Mooncakes by Suzanne Walker and Wendy Xu has been recommended so much by the internet book communities, and I was not at all disappointed. The artwork is absolutely gorgeous and the story is as heartwarming as any story could ever get. The diversity included in this novel is amazing as well, including diverse characters both real and mythological.

Overall, there really wasn’t anything I didn’t like in this novel. However, there were elements which I thought could be expanded upon. I feel like some aspects were limited, such as the mythology included in certain parts of the story. We see mythical creatures that live in the nearby forest, though with no explanation as to what they are or where they come from – all we know is that they are friends of the heroes. In addition to this mythology, I would’ve liked to have seen more lore about werewolves, which admittedly the protagonists are not so learned in. This they did a good job with, creating a limited perspective in the narration so that readers are able to learn and go on this adventure along with the protagonists. In any case, I hope perhaps Walker and Xu will go on to expand this universe a bit more, as not only do I want to know more about the mythology of Mooncakes, but I just want to read more of Walker and Xu’s work!

While there is so much explained about Tam’s (the werewolf) fight for self-realization, but not so much for Nova’s (the young witch). We see Nova at some odds with her parents about her not having left home to find herself. In the end she does decide to leave to find herself, but we don’t get much insight into the decision making that went on in her mind. While this isn’t necessarily essential to Nova’s character, I’d still like to have seen some more about her character and personality.

The following are the elements of this book I absolutely loved. One thing this book did phenomenally is portray diverse characters in abundance and depth. Nova Huang comes from a half-Chinese half-Jewish family – portrayed wonderfully by the joint celebration of Chinese New Year and Sukkot. She is raised by two grandmothers. She is also in a queer relationship with Tam Lang who is also, I assume, POC, and is non-binary. Unfortunately we don’t get to meet too many other characters besides Nova’s family and the antagonists, but I have no doubt Walker and Xu would portray them with the same care and depth.

What can I say about Wendy Xu’s art in this book other than that it is amazing. The colors remind me of Autumn (no surprise as it is very themed for Halloween), and while they are simple drawings, they are colored and expressed so vividly. I especially liked the trees and the art of the mythical forest creatures – I just want a whole book of Xu’s mythical creatures!

It is clear from the beginning that Nova and Tam have a history as childhood friends (and perhaps more), and so it was no surprise that they fell together so quickly in the beginning of the book. In addition, the two from the start are willing to work on their relationship, it’s not star-crossed or fated, it’s simply made and worked on by two people who have a lot of love to give. Of course there is a grand kiss at the end, but instead of it being a kiss after a long slow burn, it is a kiss of relief that things can finally settle.

I recommend Mooncakes to anyone who needs a bit of love and magic in their life.

I know this is my first book of 2020, but I can already see it being one of my favorites.

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Book Review – Mooncakes by Suzanne Walker and Wendy Xu

Mooncakes

Mooncakes by Suzanne Walker

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Mooncakes has been recommended so much by the internet book communities, and I was not at all disappointed. The artwork is absolutely gorgeous and the story is as heartwarming as any story could ever get. The diversity included in this novel is amazing as well: you have a non-binary character and their deaf girlfriend who is part of (what I believe is) a part Chinese part Jewish (etc.) family. Not to mention the diverse mythical beings, which I would love to see more of in Walker and Xu’s other works!

Most of all this is a story about love, family, and growing into one’s self.
I recommend Mooncakes to anyone who needs a bit of love and magic in their life.

I know this is my first book of 2020, but I can already seeing it being one of my favorites.



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Book Review-The Encyclopedia of Early Earth by Isabel Greenberg

The Encyclopedia of Early Earth

The Encyclopedia of Early Earth by Isabel Greenberg

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I did not know what to expect when I first picked up The Encyclopedia of Early Earth. I sort of assumed that it would be different entries on all sorts of flora and fauna found in prehistoric Earth. But, as Isabel Greenberg says on the back cover, “this book is not a real encyclopedia”. Instead it is a story about the adventures of a storyteller and the stories that he tells and learns as he meets all sorts of people.
The stories, interwoven, going deeper and deeper (you could call it story-ception) are definitely based on known myths and folktales, and tales from the Torah, though Greenberg has, through her ingenius world-building of her Early Earth, given these stories a unique flavor.

The art is charming, very simple, and mostly monochrome, illustrating well the stories that take place in cold lands, and also making it so that it is the stories the reader focuses on, with the illustrations as the supplementary medium.

As a lover of folklore, this has been the perfect book for me. I recommend this to those who love stories, whether you listen to or tell them.



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