coming of age, Queer, romance, Uncategorized

Webcomic Review: Check, Please! by Ngozi Ukazu

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Title: Check, Please!
Author: Ngozi Ukazu
Genre: Comic, Sports, Romance, Queer, Coming of Age
Rating: 4 Folded Pages

Blurb (Taken from the Check, Please! tumblr):
Eric Bittle—former Georgia junior figure skating champion, vlogger extraordinaire, and amateur pâtissier—is starting his freshman year playing hockey at the prestigious Samwell University in Samwell, Massachusetts. And it’s basically nothing like co-ed club hockey back in the South. For one?

There’s checking.

It’s a story about hockey and friendship and bros and trying to find yourself during the best 4 years of your life.

Review:
I was scrolling Tumblr a few weeks ago when I stumbled upon one of the frames from this comic. It was a mere 3 hours later that I had completely caught up with the comic and subsequently followed tons of blogs dedicated to Check, Please! I have become a bit obsessed with this cute webcomic and wanted to share it.

Eric “Bitty” Bittle is one of the most adorable and endearing characters I’ve ever encountered. It’s very hard to present a personality in a few quick comic frames but Ngozi does such a wonderful job of it. All the other side characters in Check, Please! also have amazing and decipherable personalities which is such a hard feat to accomplish with such little writing. I’ve fallen in love with all of the characters.

I’d say the main theme of this comic is friendship and growing up. It does have a romance aspect (that I won’t spoil) but the comic truly shines when revealing friendship dynamics and how much the hockey team supports and loves each other.

The art style of the comic is also super cute! I mean, just look at these adorable characters.

Bitty has a Twitter (that’s currently locked so spoilers for the current season don’t get out) and it’s interactive. Transmedia (as made popular by The Lizzie Bennet Diaries) is such an interesting thing to pursue. I love that transmedia is now being used for media other than videos.

The only thing that doesn’t make this a 5 folded pages review is that the series isn’t finished. It’s an ongoing series that mostly follows real-time. I don’t know if I’ll love where the series will go in the future and I’ll probably do an update review whenever it finishes but for now. This comic is AMAZING and I need more people to read it and love it as much as I do.

Here is a “slideshow” that can give a more in-depth description of Check, Please!

Here is the beginning of the comic. Beware you’ll become obsessed. Feel free to gush with me on Tumblr once you are hooked!

science fiction, scifi, short story, young adult

Book Review: Stars Above by Marissa Meyer

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Title: Stars Above
Author: Marissa Meyer
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Length: 400 Pages, Hardback
Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Short Stories
Rating: 3.5 Folded Pages

Blurb:
The enchantment continues. . . .
The universe of the Lunar Chronicles holds stories – and secrets – that are wondrous, vicious, and romantic. How did Cinder first arrive in New Beijing? How did the brooding soldier Wolf transform from young man to killer? When did Princess Winter and the palace guard Jacin realize their destinies?
With nine stories – five of which have never before been published – and an exclusive never-before-seen excerpt from Marissa Meyer’s novel, Heartless, about the Queen of Hearts from Alice in Wonderland, Stars Above is essential for fans of the bestselling and beloved Lunar Chronicles.

Review:
As with Fairest I found these short stories to be nice but unnecessary. I could have done with or without them. Of the 9 short stories I only really enjoyed three of them. The rest were kind of boring and I was pretty bored reading them.

Honestly, the only short stories I thought to be worth while to the series was “The Mechanic” the scene where Kai met Cinder but from Kai’s point of view and “Something Old, Something New” the only story about after the series.

I also enjoyed “The Little Android” which was a short story retelling of The Little Mermaid but I liked it as it’s own separate short story not necessarily as something connected to The Lunar Chronicles as a whole.

I would have given this a 2.5 if not for “Something Old, Something New.” This last short story had me smiling like a fool one minute and tearing up the next.

I will say that reading these short stories made me really miss the series. I almost stopped reading these short stories and picked up Cinder to reread.

I like that Marissa Meyer has been fleshing out the series but I wish the stories were more relevant or added more to the world. These almost felt like fanfiction for the series, not official stories from the author.

Podcast

Podcast Review: Fansplaining

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Title: Fainsplaing
Hosts: Flourish Klink and Elizabeth Minkel
Producer: Self-published
Length: Typically an hour
Genre: Education, culture
Rating: 4 Mics

Summary:
Fansplaining is a podcast about fandom: not a fandom, but fandom and fan culture in general. How are fans making an impact on pop culture? On industry? How has fandom changed over the years? And what truly is the best fanvid ever? Fansplaining features fan, academic, and entertainment industry guests, and it’s hosted by Flourish Klink and Elizabeth Minkel. New episodes come out every two weeks.
Taken from the Fansplaining About page

Review:
It’s no secret that fandom has been a huge part of my life for almost as long as I can remember. So you can imagine just how jazzed I was when I found out about this podcast. Basically they discuss fandom and fan culture in an academic way. It’s interesting and I enjoy analyzing something I love in an academic way.

Flourish and Elizabeth are great hosts. They have great chemistry and the friendship between them is obvious. They also have great podcast voices. Each voice is distinguishable and they generally speak slowly enough to catch but fast enough to not feel boring.

I love their transitions as well. The music they use is relevant and I’ve found many a good band through the transitions. Also, since it’s a small podcast you don’t have the annoying and/or tired commercials that a lot of podcasts tend to have.

I do think that some of the episodes could be a little more focused. Also, since it is self-produced there are some parts that could be better. There have been some audio issues and sound quality issues that will hopefully be fixed as they become more experienced and get better.

On a better note, both of the hosts have a good sense of humor that keeps the podcast from getting too serious. There have been many times where I laughed outloud. They also transcribe all their episodes if listening to podcasts isn’t for you!

I also have to applaud their interactions with the listeners. I tagged them in a post on my tumblr asking a question and they answered it in the most recent podcast (I’m still stoked Senpai noticed me!!!). They try to get to all the questions they get from fans and I’m super glad that they try to address the topics brought up by their listeners.

Overall, I’m super into this podcast and I can’t wait to see where it goes. Fandom and fan culture is a relatively new topic of study and it’s not very accessible to people who aren’t in the academic world. I’m glad Fansplaining is around to help bridge the gap and allow fans everywhere to think critically about their fandoms and fan culture.

Here are two of my favorite episodes:
Episode 15: ~Fanspeak 
As an English major, my favorite episode would be the one where they talk to a linguist about the language fans use and how it came to be. I’m super interested in how the language fans used developed and the different lexicons of different fandoms. This episode helps explain some aspects.

Episode 4: Buncha Lawyers
This episode is super interesting. One of the biggest topics in fandom is copyright and this episode addresses it. It talks about plagiarism vs copyright infringement and what’s covered under fair use. I think this topic is super interesting especially being a book fandom and how authors typically view fanfiction.

science fiction, scifi, young adult

Novella Review: Fairest by Marissa Meyer

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Title: Fairest
Author: Marissa Meyer
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Length: 272 Pages, Hardback
Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Novella
Rating: 3 Folded Pages

Blurb:
Mirror, mirror, on the wall.
Who is the Fairest of them all?

Pure evil has a name, hides behind a mask of deceit, and uses her “glamour” to gain power. But who is Queen Levana? Long before she crossed paths with Cinder, Scarlet, and Cress in The Lunar Chronicles, Levana lived a very different story―a story that has never been told . . . until now.

Review:
I’m sad that I didn’t enjoy this more. Maybe it’s because I read it after I read Winter or maybe it’s because it followed Illuminae. Either way, this novella was kind of eh for me. It wasn’t great but it wasn’t awful.

I definitely enjoyed being able to see why Levana was the way she was. However, I don’t think it evoked the feelings in me that Meyer intended. I didn’t feel sorry for Levana. In fact, this made me dislike Levana even more.

Warning: Spoilers are ahead.

This novella clearly shows that Levana was not mentally stable. All of her problems were non-existent or self created. I think her mental instability might stem from Channary using the lunar gift on Levana when she was young alongside the trauma she faced as a child. Either way, I didn’t really feel for Levana the way I wanted to. I wanted to understand her and feel bad for her but I just couldn’t.

Spoilers over

Overall, this novella was nice for fleshing out Levana and adding to the world building of the Lunar chronicles but I could have lived without it.

Horror, romance, science fiction, young adult

Book Review: Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

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Title: Illuminae
Author: Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Length: 608 Pages, Hardback
Genre: Science Fiction, Romance, Young Adult, Horror (kinda)
Rating: 5 Folded Pages

Blurb:
This morning, Kady thought breaking up with Ezra was the hardest thing she’d have to do. This afternoon, her planet was invaded.
The year is 2575, and two rival megacorporations are at war over a planet that’s little more than a speck at the edge of the universe. Now with enemy fire raining down on them, Kady and Ezra—who are barely even talking to each other—are forced to evacuate with a hostile warship in hot pursuit.
But their problems are just getting started. A plague has broken out and is mutating with terrifying results; the fleet’s AI may actually be their enemy; and nobody in charge will say what’s really going on. As Kady hacks into a web of data to find the truth, it’s clear the only person who can help her is the ex-boyfriend she swore she’d never speak to again.
Told through a fascinating dossier of hacked documents—including emails, maps, files, IMs, medical reports, interviews, and more—Illuminae is the first book in a heart-stopping trilogy about lives interrupted, the price of truth, and the courage of everyday heroes.

Review:
I’m like 95% sure this book almost pushed me into a book slump and not in the bad way. This book was so good it had me contemplating what I would do with life while I wait for the sequel. I was a little unsure going into this book. I’d heard great things but typically I don’t do well with weird formats. I was extremely surprised by just how much I loved the unusual way of storytelling in this.

Even though the book was not told through normal conventions, the characters were SO well developed. Kady was sassy and fun even when facing big issues. Her character shined even when she was nervous or scared. Ezra was confident and it was obvious with how quickly he took to being a pilot.

I won’t go further into characters to avoid spoilers, but I generally loved how each character was built and shown. With how the story was told, it would have been very easy to tell and not show but Kaufman and Kristoff managed to do more showing with their unconventional point of views than a lot of the novels I’ve read.

I do have to give a warning for some pretty hardcore gore. The novel isn’t technically labeled as Horror but for me it definitely reads like it. I haven’t read any horror but parts of it felt like I was watching a horror movie so I wanted to add that warning to any who might be squeamish.

The plot was super interesting. Again, I won’t be detailed about it to avoid spoilers but I felt like plot twists just kept coming at me and almost none of them were expected. On a side note, homosexual relationships were thrown in very nonchalantly and treated as normal. I appreciated this. As always, it would have been nice to have LGBTQ+ stuff at the forefront. I’m still glad that this kind of thing was included and that they didn’t make a big deal of it.

This book was such a breath of fresh air. I’ve been struggling to find books to read since finishing this because it was so good. It also took me much too long to write this review. I don’t think words could justify just how much I loved this book. If I can convince you to read one book, it’d be this one. It’s the best book I’ve read in a very long time.

Biography, nonfiction

Book Review: The Amazing Book is Not on Fire by Dan Howell and Phil Lester

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Title: The Amazing Book is Not on Fire
Author: Dan Howell and Phil Lester
Publisher: Ebury Press
Length: 224 pages, Hardback
Genre: Non-fiction, Humor, Autobiography
Rating: 3 Folded Pages

Blurb:
Hello reader,

In this book is a world. A world created by two awkward guys who share their lives on the internet!

We are Dan and Phil and we invite you on a journey inside our minds! From the stories of our actual births, to exploring Phil’s teenage diary and all the reasons why Dan’s a fail.

Learn how to draw the perfect cat whiskers, get advice on what to do in an awkward situation and discover which of our dining chairs represents you emotionally. With everything from what we text each other, to the time we met One Direction and what really happened in Vegas…

Review:
As usual I am bearing my soul for this blog. I’ll just come out and say it, I am a Youtube Junkie. Seriously. I’m so glad Youtube got rid of the thing on the original profiles that told people how many youtube videos a person has watched because mine would be embarassingly high. That being said, a lot of Youtubers are coming out with books (I reviewed Zoella’s young adult novel here) and I couldn’t resist picking this one up when I saw considering how much I love Danisnotonfire and AmazingPhil. They are so funny and relatable. Their youtube videos almost always pull me out of a bad mood.

My love for them is why it pains me to say what I’m about to say. It wasn’t that great.

Hear me out. I did really enjoy reading this. It was like their Youtube videos in book format and why wouldn’t a certified Youtube addict and bibliophile love a mash up of her two favorite things. However, this book was a little bit too much of their Youtube content.

I feel like several pieces of the book were just their videos converted to text format and given cute typography and graphic design. It definitely doesn’t help that to advertise said book they made Youtube videos of the pages that weren’t already Youtube videos.

Before reading this, I had hoped to learn more about them as people. Granted there was some of that, there wasn’t nearly as much as I wanted. If I wasn’t already a fan of them, I wouldn’t have read past the first 20 pages.

My conclusion, in all honesty, is that only people who already like them should get the book and I’d suggest not trying to read it cover to cover like I did.

Fantasy, young adult

Book Review: Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones

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Title: Howl’s Moving Castle
Author: Diana Wynne Jones
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Length: 336 pages, Mass Market Paperback
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult
Rating: 4.5 Folded Pages

Blurb:
In the land of Ingary, such things as spells, invisible cloaks, and seven-league boots were everyday things. The Witch of the Waste was another matter.

After fifty years of quiet, it was rumored that the Witch was about to terrorize the country again. So when a moving black castle, blowing dark smoke from its four thin turrets, appeared on the horizon, everyone thought it was the Witch. The castle, however, belonged to Wizard Howl, who, it was said, liked to suck the souls of young girls.

The Hatter sisters–Sophie, Lettie, and Martha–and all the other girls were warned not to venture into the streets alone. But that was only the beginning.

In this giant jigsaw puzzle of a fantasy, people and things are never quite what they seem. Destinies are intertwined, identities exchanged, lovers confused. The Witch has placed a spell on Howl. Does the clue to breaking it lie in a famous poem? And what will happen to Sophie Hatter when she enters Howl’s castle?

Review:
I’m sure everyone is sick of hearing me say this, but yet again this was a reread. I loved the Studio Ghibli film of the same title though it’s very obvious once you read the book that the movie is VERY loosely based on it. My friend made me read it when she saw how much I loved the movie and she wasn’t wrong. Although the two are very different both are amazing.

The basic characters are all the same, Sophie, Howl, Calcifer, Witch of the Waste, Michael and so on. But with the book the plot and conclusion is a little bit different. Also, you get so much more from all the characters. I feel like the movie didn’t have the proper time to flesh out the characters like the book does considering there are so many.

Sophie is so stubborn and annoying but in the most perfect way. You can really see the effect the witch’s spell has on her in the book. The movie, I don’t think, does that justice. Sophie’s emotions are so raw and real and her change in character brought on by the spell is amazing to read.

Howl, Calcifer, and Michael all have their own unique personalities as well that are so fleshed out and yummy. I might be just a tad biased though because this book holds a special place in my heart. I think this is the third or fourth time I’ve reread it in about 8 years.

The plot itself is a little confusing and a little frustrating but I think it was like that in the movie as well. Honestly, you get a lot more explanation in the book and it helps clear up the confusion I had with the movie before I read the book.

I do think the Jones waits a little too long to reveal everything. The ending is a whirlwind of action and resolutions and it can almost give you a headache there’s so much information dumped on you.

Still aside from that tiny flaw, I thoroughly enjoyed my reread and I look forward to the next time I reread because I’m sure I will many more times in the years to come.

nonfiction, Podcast

Podcast Review: Reply All by Gimlet Media

I’ve recently become obsessed with podcasts and I wanted to do a review of my favorite. (I might review others if this goes over well, we’ll see.)

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Title: Reply All
Hosts: Alex Goldman and PJ Vogt
Producer: Gimlet Media
Length: Typically 30-40 minutes
Genre: Non-fiction, Technology
Rating: 5 Mics (Folded pages just didn’t quite work for this one)

Summary (Courtesy of the Gimlet Website):
Reply All is a show about the internet, hosted by PJ Vogt and Alex Goldman. The show launched in 2014. We publish new episodes on Wednesday nights.

Our show is downloaded around 2 million times per month. If you are new to the show, you can start from the beginning, or try a few of these episodes which we like a lot.

Review:
I never used to be one for podcasts (or audiobooks on a related note) but in September a blog I follow on Tumblr recommended this podcast. It was described as a show about the internet and it intrigued me. I listened to about 30 episodes in one sitting. This is my first time doing a podcast review so please me if it’s a little rough.

I think what captivated me first was PJ Vogt’s voice. He has a voice that you kind of want to listen to forever. It’s soothing and smooth. It makes you want to listen. Alex Goldman also has a nice voice but something about PJ’s voice reminds me of Danny from Game Grumps and I also really like his voice.

The chemistry between the two hosts is also great. They play well off each other and you can tell that they are more than just co-hosts to each other. They’re friends and they love what they do. I’m not sure why but I’m always incredibly happy when I listen/read/watch projects by people when you can tell how much they love it.

It only took two episodes to realize the stories they talk about are the kind of stories I want to hear about. So while PJ’s voice captured me and I loved the hosts’ chemistry, their stories are why I’m still obsessed over 4 months later. I think I would consider this is journalistic kind of podcast. They find weird, interesting, funny, romantic, or all of the above stories on the internet and give you a summary mixed in with them interviewing the people who are involved in said stories.

Now, I don’t think it’s any secret that I pretty much live on the internet. There usually isn’t something I haven’t heard of and the amazing thing is that of all the stories they’ve reported in the 56 episodes they have released thus far I have only heard of one. It makes me incredibly happy when there’s a new thing on the internet that can give me new information. The stories are all incredibly unique and they somehow know where to find them.

The music used in the show is also very good. I tend to get the jingles stuck in my head. But I think the feel of the intro music totally matches the theme of the show. With a theme like technology/internet, it’s a feat well accomplished.

I’m not sure my review is really doing this podcast justice. I also don’t really know what else to comment on. So please find a few of my favorite episodes below!

Episode 1: An App Sends A Stranger To Say “I Love You” 
I know it’s a little cliche but this episode is still probably my all time favorite. I think this episode totally encompasses everything this show is about. It’s hilarious, somewhat emotional, and just an interesting story.

Episode 3: We Know What You Did
This one was SUPER interesting. No spoilers, but I learned so much from this. I definitely suggest giving it a listen.

Episode 13: Love is Lies
This is bar far my favorite episode. It was just SO intriguing and you kind of learn the inside on something everyone is curious about but no one (Americans, at least) have so little knowledge about in the general public.

Fantasy, romance, young adult

Book Review: An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

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Title: An Ember in the Ashes
Author: Sabaa Tahir
Publisher: Razorbill
Length: 464 Pages, Hardback
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult, Romance
Rating: 4 Folded Pages

Blurb:
Laia is a slave. Elias is a soldier. Neither is free.

Under the Martial Empire, defiance is met with death. Those who do not vow their blood and bodies to the Emperor risk the execution of their loved ones and the destruction of all they hold dear.

It is in this brutal world, inspired by ancient Rome, that Laia lives with her grandparents and older brother. The family ekes out an existence in the Empire’s impoverished backstreets. They do not challenge the Empire. They’ve seen what happens to those who do.

But when Laia’s brother is arrested for treason, Laia is forced to make a decision. In exchange for help from rebels who promise to rescue her brother, she will risk her life to spy for them from within the Empire’s greatest military academy.

There, Laia meets Elias, the school’s finest soldier—and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias wants only to be free of the tyranny he’s being trained to enforce. He and Laia will soon realize that their destinies are intertwined—and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself.

Review:
I’m not sure if something’s wrong with me or not but I think this book may have been overhyped. I definitely didn’t love it as much as others seem to. That’s not to say I didn’t like it but I’m not sure it deserves all of the glorifying it’s received since it came out.

I like Laia. She seems very real. She’s destined to save the world or something but she still has doubts about herself and her skills. I like that. I’ve had enough of the heroines who just decide they no longer have fear and suddenly have skills. It’s a breath of fresh air.

I also like Elias. He just wants to escape the hell he’s been forced into. He’s not really out to save the world or anything. He’s sweet but doesn’t know where he stands and I like that about him.

Honestly I love all the characters. From Cook to Izzi, to Keenan and even the Commandment because she’s evil but that kind of person exists in the real world and we even get to see bits of other sides of her.

Tahir does an amazing job with her characters honestly. I really enjoyed them all. Her writing is also beautiful.

So why don’t I love this?

I found it incredibly boring at some parts. I’m not exactly sure why either. The book was mostly action packed and yet there were certain parts where I was like oh my god is anything different going to happen.

As I write this, I’m realizing it might have to do with lengthy exposition. As much as I like Laia and Elias, I think Tahir may have spent too much time writing out their inner monologues that say the same things about the character over and over in different words. It was boring. There’s a reason one of the biggest pieces of writing advice is “show, don’t tell” and I think Tahir did a little too much telling sometimes.

Aside from this, I absolutely loved the book. I’m looking forward to the sequel. I’m also hoping it will be better. This was Tahir’s debut novel after all so I’m hoping she grows from book to book.

Fairytale Retelling, romance, science fiction, young adult

Book Review: Winter by Marissa Meyer

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Title: Winter (The Lunar Chronicles Book 4)
Author: Marissa Meyer
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Length: 832 Pages, Hardback
Genre: Science Fiction, Romance, Young Adult, Fairytale Retelling
Rating: 4 Folded Pages

See my review for the first 3 books in The Lunar Chronicles here.
Warning: This may contain spoilers for the first 3 books.

Blurb:
Princess Winter is admired by the Lunar people for her grace and kindness, and despite the scars that mar her face, her beauty is said to be even more breathtaking than that of her stepmother, Queen Levana.

Winter despises her stepmother, and knows Levana won’t approve of her feelings for her childhood friend–the handsome palace guard, Jacin. But Winter isn’t as weak as Levana believes her to be and she’s been undermining her stepmother’s wishes for years. Together with the cyborg mechanic, Cinder, and her allies, Winter might even have the power to launch a revolution and win a war that’s been raging for far too long.

Can Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, and Winter defeat Levana and find their happily ever afters? Fans will not want to miss this thrilling conclusion to Marissa Meyer’s national bestselling Lunar Chronicles series.

Review:
This was probably my most anticipated book of 2015. Unfortunately it came out during my great November/December reading slump so I didn’t get to it until this month. Mostly because the book was on hold for forever at my library.

This book is massive. The paper is just slightly thicker than bible paper and I think how big it is lends itself to why I found the book very stop and go with action. I found some parts weren’t actiony enough and other parts were almost too actiony.

The book is still a super satisfying ending to an amazing series but I almost wish it was split into two books and the action bits more detailed to help offset some of the slowness.

I both liked and disliked Winter. Some parts with her were very annoying but in others she was endearing. I don’t think she stands up well to the other characters in the series though. She falls kind of flat compared to Cress, Cinder, and Scarlet. Jason also seems very two dimensional.

I don’t want to give much away so that’s all I’ll say on the matter. I think Cinder is still my favorite book in the series and while this ending is satisfying I feel like it was missing something in the writing and I wish it would have had steadier pacing.