Book Review: Fly on the Wall by Remy Lai – An Exuberant Illustrated Adventure about Love, Helicopter Parents, and Finding Your Independence

Blurb:

Henry Khoo’s family treats him like a baby. He’s not allowed to go anywhere without his sister/chaperone/bodyguard. His (former) best friend knows to expect his family’s mafia-style interrogation when Henry’s actually allowed to hang out at her house. And he definitely CAN’T take a journey halfway around the world all by himself!

But that’s exactly his plan. After his family’s annual trip to visit his father in Singapore is cancelled, Henry decides he doesn’t want to be cooped up at home with his overprotective family and BFF turned NRFF (Not Really Friend Forever). Plus, he’s hiding a your-life-is-over-if-you’re-caught secret: he’s the creator of an anonymous gossip cartoon, and he’s on the verge of getting caught. Determined to prove his independence and avoid punishment for his crimes, Henry embarks on the greatest adventure everrr. . . hoping it won’t turn into the greatest disaster ever.

I was provided an ARC of this book by the author; this does not influence my book review.

If you know me, then you’ll know that I loved Lai’s debut middle-grade book, Pie in the Sky, with my entire being. Pie in the Sky was a book that made me laugh with its warm yet incisive humour and made me sob my eyes out for its phenomenal portrayal of grief. Needless to say, Pie in the Sky is one of my favourite middle-grade books of all time – and you can thus imagine how excited I received a copy of Fly on the Wall from Remy herself.

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Book Review: A Map to the Sun by Sloane Leong – A Vibrant Graphic Novel about the Struggles of Being a Teen, the Friendships That Hold Us Up and Basketball

A map to the sun by Sloane Leong.
Blurb:

One summer day, Ren meets Luna at a beachside basketball court and a friendship is born. But when Luna moves to back to Oahu, Ren’s messages to her friend go unanswered.

Years go by. Then Luna returns, hoping to rekindle their friendship. Ren is hesitant. She’s dealing with a lot, including family troubles, dropping grades, and the newly formed women’s basketball team at their highschool. With Ren’s new friends and Luna all on the basketball team, the lines between their lives on and off the court begin to blur. During their first season, this diverse and endearing group of teens are challenged in ways that make them reevaluate just who and how they trust.

Sloane Leong’s evocative storytelling about the lives of these young women is an ode to the dynamic nature of friendship.

I was provided an ARC in exchange for an honest review by the author; this does not impact or influence my opinion.

I genuinely cannot remember the last time I read something in one sitting. I struggle a lot with focusing on one task for extended periods of time; even with novellas or short works of fiction that I can easily finish in an hour, it’ll probably take me more than a few sittings to finish it. With A Map to the Sun though, I read it all in one sitting, engrossed by its vibrant and beautiful pages and hopelessly compelled by the graphic novel’s cast of flawed and imperfect teenage girls. That, for me, is a testament to how wonderful I thought this graphic novel was.

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Book Review: Almost American Girl by Robin Ha – A Graphic Memoir about Immigration, Strict Gender Norms, and Forging Friendships Through Comics and Art

almost american girl robin ha book review the quiet pond

Blurb:

For as long as she can remember, it’s been Robin and her mom against the world. Growing up as the only child of a single mother in Seoul, Korea, wasn’t always easy, but it has bonded them fiercely together.

So when a vacation to visit friends in Huntsville, Alabama, unexpectedly becomes a permanent relocation—following her mother’s announcement that she’s getting married—Robin is devastated.

Overnight, her life changes. She is dropped into a new school where she doesn’t understand the language and struggles to keep up. She is completely cut off from her friends in Seoul and has no access to her beloved comics. At home, she doesn’t fit in with her new stepfamily, and worst of all, she is furious with the one person she is closest to—her mother.

Then one day Robin’s mother enrolls her in a local comic drawing class, which opens the window to a future Robin could never have imagined.

Joce’s review:

Almost American Girl provides an intimate look at the author’s journey through immigrating from South Korea to Huntsville, Alabama, in the USA, very suddenly after her mother tells her she has met a man and is going to marry him. Robin Ha invites the readers into her adolescence through this graphic memoir which allows them to see such a full range of emotions: anger towards her mother, anxiety at attending school, sorrow and intense frustration at trying to fit in when she doesn’t understand her peers and is bullied, and a flood of relief when she finds a first glimmer of connection during her comics drawing class.

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Book Review: Moonstruck, Volume 1: Magic to Brew by Grace Ellis and Shae Beagle – Cute But Somewhat Confusing

Text: Moonstruck by Grace Ellis, Shae Beagle. Image: A brown girl with dark brown natural hair and a light brown skin with blonde hair, sitting across from each other.

Blurb:

In the little college town of Blitheton, fantasy creatures live cozy, normal lives right alongside humans, and werewolf barista Julie strives to be the most normal of all. But all heck breaks loose when she and her new girlfriend Selena go on a disastrous first date that ends with a magician casting a horrible spell on their friend Chet. Now it’s up to the team of mythical pals to stop the illicit illusionist before it’s too late!

Joce’s review:

The first volume of MOONSTRUCK is divided into five different issues, focusing on the main character, Julie, who is a werewolf and plus-sized Latinx woman. She is in a relationship with Selena, who is a werewolf and Black woman. Julie is a barista at the Black Cat Cafe in a small college town where she works with her best friend Chet. Chet’s gender identity is never explicitly stated, but they use they/them pronouns, and at one point, a male character and Chet show romantic interest in one another. Throughout the story, we meet different creatures, animals, and spirits who live in Blitheton, including Dorian the magician, whose magic show Julie and Selena go to for their first date and who casts a spell on Chet.

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Book Review: Check Please! Book 1: #Hockey by Ngozi Ukazu – Skating, Strong Soft Boys, and Social Media

“Come quick, the Pond has frozen over!” cried Cuddle, waving her friends over enthusiastically. The Pond’s inhabitants quickly scampered, slithered, and strode over to the area where Cuddle had set up two hockey nets on opposite ends and gathered sticks and a puck. They divided into two teams: Cuddle and Amina versus Xiaolong and Varian, with Gen as referee and scorekeeper. Tweet! The game began.

Cuddle the Otter, wearing her pajama cap, holding a hockey stick and wearing magical ice skates.“This kinda reminds me of that scene in Frozen when Anna and Elsa are little kids. They’re skating around and Elsa makes Olaf. He likes warm hugs!” exclaimed Xiaolong, after the game had ended. They sat together in a circle at the side of the pond, sharing a plate of cookies and hot chocolate with marshmallows.

“You know,” said Cuddle, “there’s a book I read recently that’s got all the things we’ve done today. It’s about a boy named Eric Bittle who goes off to college and gets recruited to play on their hockey team. He even makes cookies and pies. It’s soft and lovely and reminds me of a warm hug!” Varian, Xiaolong, Gen, and Amina gather around her as she continues to tell them more…

Text: Check Please, Book 1: #Hockey. Ngozi Ukazu. Image is a illustration of a boy with short blonde hair, smiling, wearing red ice hockey gear and holding a pie. Behind him are other boys in red hockey gear.

Blurb:

Eric Bittle may be a former junior figure skating champion, vlogger extraordinaire, and very talented amateur pâtissier, but being a freshman on the Samwell University hockey team is a whole new challenge. It is nothing like co-ed club hockey back in Georgia! First of all? There’s checking (anything that hinders the player with possession of the puck, ranging from a stick check all the way to a physical sweep). And then, there is Jackhis very attractive but moody captain.

Joce’s Review:

Check Please! Book 1: #Hockey by Ngozi Ukazu has been on my graphic novel TBR for awhile. I first heard about it when I was reading Fence by C.S. Pacat, which is another sports-centered graphic novel series featuring an M/M relationship, with a mostly male cast of characters.

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