Graphic Novel Review: Wash Day Diaries

By Jamila Rowser and Robyn Smith

Pub Date: 5 July 2022

Description

From writer Jamila Rowser and artist Robyn Smith comes a captivating graphic novel love letter to the beauty and endurance of Black women, their friendships, and their hair.

Wash Day Diaries tells the story of four best friends—Kim, Tanisha, Davene, and Cookie—through five connected short story comics that follow these young women through the ups and downs of their daily lives in the Bronx. The book takes its title from the wash day experience shared by Black women everywhere of setting aside all plans and responsibilities for a full day of washing, conditioning, and nourishing their hair. Each short story uses hair routines as a window into these four characters’ everyday lives and how they care for each other.

Jamila Rowser and Robyn Smith originally kickstarted their critically acclaimed, award-winning slice of life mini comic, Wash Day, inspired by Rowser’s own wash day ritual and their shared desire to see more comics featuring the daily lived experiences of young Black women. Wash Day Diaries includes an updated, full color version of this original comic—which follows Kim, a 26-year-old woman living in the Bronx—as the book’s first chapter and expands into a graphic novel with short stories about these vibrant and relatable new characters.

In expanding the story of Kim and her friends, the authors pay tribute to Black sisterhood through portraits of shared, yet deeply personal experiences of Black hair care. From self-care to spilling the tea at an hours-long salon appointment to healing family rifts, the stories are brought to life through beautifully drawn characters and different color palettes reflecting the mood in each story.

At times touching, quiet, triumphant, and laugh out loud funny, the stories of Wash Day Diaries pay a loving tribute to Black joy and the resilience of Black women.

Review

The worst thing about this book was that it ended! This slice of life graphic novel hit the absolute spot for indulgence: gorgeous artwork with moody colors, cute outfits and apartments, and cool-ass women you wanna be friends with. I loved how the creators showcased the steps in each girl’s hair routine with such detail: you get to follow the twist and turns of hair, the application of products, and every routine is as unique as their personalities.

I wanted more though. Not in a bad way but ugh, it was too short! More of these characters and their stories, more of this style of easy, relatable writing. Just MORE! It felt like there was a lot left unsaid and much more going on that we need to be a part of. Here’s hoping we get a whole series of these girls because I feel sad I was only a part of their lives for the one hour I read this.

Thank you to the publisher Chronicle Books for providing an eARC of this graphic novel for review!

🧼🧼🧼🧼/5 soaps!

ARC Review: 12 Notes

Pub Date: 5 April 2022

⭐⭐⭐⭐.5/5

12 Notes: On Creativity and Life by Quincy Jones

Wisdom and musings on creativity and life from one of the world’s most beloved musicians, producers, and mentors, Quincy Jones

12 Notes is a self-development guide that will affirm that creativity is a calling that can and should be answered, no matter your age or experience. Drawing from his own life, and those of his many creative collaborators past and present, Quincy Jones presents readers with lessons that are hardworking and accessible, yet speak to the passion of self-expression. He includes sections as deep as how to transform grief into power, and as practical as how to set goals and articulate intentions through daily affirmations. Weaving his story throughout, Jones lets readers in on his own creative process, as well as the importance of letting honesty, hard work, and good relationships drive your career.

Review

Quincy Jones is a monumental figure in the music world, and being the music lover I am I jumped at the opportunity to read this. First of all, The Weeknd’s foreword was like a red carpet being rolled out for royalty and felt like the perfect introduction. It made me excited for what came ahead. But what I loved most about this work was that it wasn’t a memoir or biography, and every story had a reason, a moral or lesson to be learned. Jones is writing this book at the age of 88 and the wisdom he has to impart comes from years of experience on the road, in the studio, and through the trying times of the civil rights era.

Not only has he worked with greats like Michael Jackson and Ray Charles, but Quincy Jones earned countless awards, many times as the first African American to do so. Despite the many doubters to his career, Q came out on top and writes this book from a place of power. His passion beams through the pages and you can’t help but take that with you after the last page has turned. It was a concise read, every word spoken with purpose, and I truly enjoyed it. Highly recommend for music lovers and creatives who speak from their soul.

Thank you to the publisher ABRAMS for providing a copy of review via Netgalley.

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Graphic Novel Review: Alice in Kyoto Forest, Vol. 1

🐇🐇🐇/5 white rabbits

Description

After being orphaned at a young age, Alice lives with her aunt and abusive uncle. At 15 she finds her ticket to freedom: heading back to her hometown of Kyoto to train as a maiko and eventually becoming a geisha. Kyoto is nothing like she remembers and it soon begins to feel like she’s in a completely different world.

Review

An interesting take on the classic Alice in Wonderland, this wasn’t quite what I expected. I understand that the character was supposed to be confused so that created some confusion for the reader as well but it was kinda clunky and I felt like that could’ve been done better.

Her two companion creatures, the rabbit and frog, were cute until one of them starts making perverted remarks which was just unsettling. Other than that, the circumstances of the mysterious boy from another time was absolutely captivating and really snagged me to wanna read the next issue.

Thank you to TokyoPop for providing a copy for review.

Find Alice in Kyoto Forest, Vol. 1 on Bookshop.org

ARC Review: Gathering Blossoms Under Fire

Alice Walker’s Journals

Pub Date: 12 April 2022

I love a good journal. There’s something absolutely fascinating about getting inside someone’s head and journals are the best way to achieve that. A favorite I read recently was Kurt Cobain’s controversial Journals. Controversial because he didn’t exactly authorize their publishing and were considered more of a cash grab by Courtney Love, or so the interweb rumors go.

That controversy makes it a great read for the voyeur, who just can’t help but “read and judge”. (Reference to Kurt’s handwritten cover, “If you read you’ll judge.”) Highly recommend for the Kurt/Nirvana fans and anyone else who adores slinks into other stoner/rocker/rebels’ minds.

Alice Walker’s journals are an awe-inspiring collection. They range from her early twenties all the way into her fifties, and you get the chance to follow along her whole adult life, a rare written journey. Starting in 1965 and ending in 2000 the world around her changes dramatically, but my favorite part was how her focus shifted inwards.

In her younger years she was more concerned about world issues and politics, but as she ages she focuses much more on personal relationships, on what’s best for herself, and connecting with nature. She learns lessons and thinks through situations through her writing, and another cool aspect was seeing her develop ideas for future published works. I really enjoyed this journal and I believe anyone who wishes to be a successful writer would enjoy reading Alice Walker’s journals.

Thank you to the publisher Simon and Schuster for providing an eARC of this book for review.

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ARC Review: This Place of Wonder

More like This Place of Procrastination

⭐⭐⭐/5

This Place of Wonder by Barbara O’Neal

Description via the Publisher

When famed chef Augustus Beauvais dies, he leaves behind a celebrated reputation—and four women grappling with loss, anger, pain, and the question of how the world will turn without him…

Meadow, the ex-wife with whom Augustus built an empire—and a family—still holds a place for him in her heart, even as she continues to struggle with his infidelities, which ended their twenty-year marriage. More unforgiving is Maya, his estranged daughter, who’s recently out of rehab but finally ready to reclaim her life. Norah, his latest girlfriend, sidelined her own career for unexpected love and a life of luxury, both of which are now gone with Augustus. And then there’s Rory, Meadow’s daughter, the voice of calm and reason in a chorus of discontent.

As Meadow, Maya, Norah, and Rory are flung together by tragedy, grief, and secrets yet to be revealed, they must accept—or turn away from—the legacy of great intentions and bad decisions Augustus left them. And when the circumstances around his death are called into question, their conflicted feelings become even more complicated. But moving forward is the only choice they have, and to do so, they’ll need to rely on family, friendship, and inner strength.

Set on the stunning, rugged California coastline, This Place of Wonder is an emotional, lush, and empowering story of four women finding their way in a changed world—and what a wondrous journey it will be.

Review

Wow, I really wanted to love this book. In 2020 I read my first Barbara O’Neal book When We Believed in Mermaids and absolutely adored the twisting adventure of two sisters; the lush ocean scenery and mysterious characters; even the side romance was pleasant (and romance is not really my thing). I’d been craving to be taken there again, into that sweet oceanic unknown O’Neal created. So when I saw this book I jumped at the opportunity to read it. But it just fell short for me.

Thanks to the multiple character POVs there were a lot of inner thought ramblings that carried on forever and felt unnecessary, as well as repeated information between one character and the next. The characters all had sad backstories (which was supposed to endear them to us) but for some reason they never felt like real people. Since every voice sounded similar, I wasn’t able to hear each character’s voice. I just saw an author in her house freewriting as the thoughts occurred, eating up page count. It didn’t get interesting until about 60% and by that time it felt like it could have benefited from some heavy editing.

The characters had sad backstories (which was supposed to endear them to us) but they never felt like real people to me. Meadow’s story presents itself as uber *mysterious*, something that I should have felt desperate to know, but since the characters weren’t tangible it was difficult to care. There was very little to no action for the entire length of the novel, the inner thoughts just rambled on and on, but in the end I guess the pay off was worth it. The entire read just didn’t sweep me away how I’d hoped and that was a big let down. If it were whittled down to half the length then perhaps it would have shined brighter, but this one missed the mark.

2.5 stars rounded up to 3 for readability. The author does write beautifully and if you don’t mind sinking into a lethargic story about grief then this one could just be the one for you.

Thank you to the publisher for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

ARC Review: Misrule

Pretty covers are my weakness

Misrule: Book 2 of Malice Duology by Heather Walter

Click here for link to Part 1 Malice Review

Pub Date: 10 May 2022

Thank you to the publisher Random House- Ballantine, Del Rey for providing an eARC of this book for review!

Description via the Publisher

Does true love break curses or begin them? The dark sorceress of “Sleeping Beauty” reclaims her story in this sequel to Malice.

The Dark Grace is dead.

Feared and despised for the sinister power in her veins, Alyce wreaks her revenge on the kingdom that made her an outcast. Once a realm of decadence and beauty, Briar is now wholly Alyce’s wicked domain. And no one will escape the consequences of her wrath. Not even the one person who holds her heart.

Princess Aurora saw through Alyce’s thorny facade, earning a love that promised the dawn of a new age. But it is a love that came with a heavy price: Aurora now sleeps under a curse that even Alyce’s vast power cannot seem to break. And the dream of the world they would have built together is nothing but ash.

Alyce vows to do anything to wake the woman she loves, even if it means turning into the monster Briar believes her to be. But could Aurora love the villain Alyce has become?

Or is true love only for fairy tales?

Review

Fantasy/Sci-Fi isn’t usually my thing but I do make an exception for fairy tale retellings! Getting back into the magical world of Briar was easy as a dip in a summer pool. Storyline aside, the author creates a world full of splendor and magic that isn’t too confusing in its rules. The addition of quirky kingdom characters like the goblins provided a fun, much needed comic relief. I enjoyed seeing Alyce fully embracing her dark powers because let’s be honest, it’s fun to root for the bad guys/girls sometimes.

However this time around Alyce had much more character dimension and thus, flaws that made her feel like a real human. This confused me a bit because she’s not a human? But I guess that’s all part of the fantasy aspect. She had a lot of self-doubt and would do certain things that made her a pretty unlikable character in this book for me, but in the end her character journey was well worth it. All in all, this was a great read that I breezed through and I recommend the Malice Duology for anyone who loves dark fairy tales, complicated love stories, and fantastical worlds.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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Book Review: Set the Night on Fire

A few of my favorite things

Set the Night on Fire: Living, Dying, and Playing Guitar with the Doors
by Robby Krieger with Jeff Alulis

The Doors have always carried an air of mysticism for me. I first heard them as a child through my older sister and her friends, when I knew nothing of them but their haunting melodies and ability to transport you in a single song length. For instance, Riders on the Storm reminded me of the Tiny Toons episode where a family picks up a crazed hitchhiker after a trip to the theme park (the only concept I could conceive for “killer on the road”). The rainstorm is clear throughout the audio, the synth itself feels like raindrops, and Jim’s vocals create smooth, eerie tension. It’s both beautiful and creepy, it feels like a journey you know is dangerous but calls you all the same. That ability to transport is vivid in so many of their songs like Spanish Caravan, Moonlight Drive, and Roadhouse Blues.

As I got older The Doors were prevalent in pop culture, films like Lost Boys, and even though it was an Echo and the Bunnymen cover that spooky and sunny California air is perfectly embodied by The Doors’ classic People are Strange. Oliver Stone’s The Doors movie was one of those films that made the band into rock gods with wild lives that we as teenagers simply ate up. I even happened to stumble on Jim Morrison fanfics, reading an entire series dedicated to the poet and his tumultuous relationships.

So when I saw this book was available, written by Robby Krieger himself, I instantly dove. Once you’ve listened to the music and read the fan writings and the books of Jim’s poems, the chance to read all the Doors stories straight from the source is an absolute must and it did not disappoint.

Krieger breaks the stories down from their humble beginnings and that humility carries through the entire book. You never get the sense that these band members are the Rock Gods you see depicted in movies. All of those wild movie moments are dispelled into their small grains of truth and Krieger tells why there are so many Doors rumors around. Jim especially who’s been conceptualized as a drunken sex symbol is finally given the insight into his character that only someone who personally knew him well could give. There are so many cool stories that I urge anyone who’s a Jim fan (and dabbles in Jim fanfiction) to pick this one up just for that.

I expected to read a lot more about Robby’s own life, but as the title states he commits this book to mostly all Doors talk. He talks about his beginnings in guitar, his jazz and blues inspirations, and you get to follow his whole journey. After The Doors form and begin recording, he goes into detail about studio sessions spilling all kinds of recording secrets, things he wishes he could’ve changed, instances in the studios, and tidbits about how songs were recorded and overdubbed. You get to pull up tracks and listen to these songs in whole new ways.

The writing style is cool and laid back, even funny and very witty at times. It’s obvious that Robby has a gentle soul because even when there are tensions between the band members he never writes with anything like anger or spite. You can tell he looks back on his life with The Doors fondly. The entire work is a labor of love and if you love music the way I do, this book is an absolute must read.

Massive thank you to the publisher Little, Brown, and Company for providing a copy of this book for review.

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Book Review: How to Marry Keanu Reeves in 90 Days

How to Marry Keanu? I’m in!

How to Marry Keanu Reeves in 90 Days by K.M. Jackson

⭐⭐⭐/5

Description

Bethany Lu Carlisle is devastated when the tabloids report actor Keanu Reeves is about to tie the knot. What?! How could the world’s perfect boyfriend and forever bachelor, Keanu not realize that making a move like this could potentially be devastating to the equilibrium of…well…everything! Not to mention, he’s never come face to face with the person who could potentially be his true soulmate—her.
 
Desperate to convince Keanu to call off the wedding, Lu and her ride-or-die BFF Truman Erikson take a wild road trip to search for the elusive Keanu so that Lu can fulfill her dream of meeting her forever crush and confess her undying love. From New York to Los Angeles, Lu and True get into all sorts of sticky situations. Will Lu be able to find Keanu and convince him she’s the one for him? Or maybe she’ll discover true love has been by her side all along…

Review

From the very beginning this book was super cute. That rom-com vibe in a book was just what I was looking for so I was excited to jump into it. The idea of marrying Keanu is a perfect hook and at first the characters all seemed to be likable. The road trip Lu and True find themselves on takes them to all kind of cute destinations that were fun to read about. However, throughout the entire book Bethany Lu has this attitude towards her friend True that comes across as kind of mean. He’s always really kind and caring towards her and apparently she cares about him too, because she thinks it to herself, but the way she speaks to him and treats him just kind of put me off.

This book read like your typical romance novel with cheesy and at times cringy dialogue. Really cute if you enjoy reading romance, but I was expecting a little more of the comedy to come around and was left disappointed. It alternated POVs between Lu and True, which reminded me of those Wattpad books that seemed to just kind of ramble out thoughts in the character’s head to take up space.

It was an easy enjoyable read overall and I recommend for romance lovers who enjoy road trips.

Thank you Forever and Grand Central Publishing for sending me an e-ARC of this book for review.

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Book Review: Cold Snap

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Such a cute cover! Read in a cozy cabin for max effect

Cold Snap by Codi Schneider

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Description

Tucked in the cold Colorado mountains lies the remote village of Gray Birch, a place where outsiders are frowned upon. In this village lives a cat named Bijou. But she’s no ordinary house cat; her ancestors were mousers on Viking longships, and their blood runs through her veins. Since her battle skills are hardly needed in this modern age, however, she spends her energies running the Fox Burrow Pet Inn with her human, Spencer, and her assistant, Skunk, a mentally negligible Pomeranian. Together, the happy trio has created a safe haven for their four-legged guests.

But when Eddy Line, a handsome baker from California, comes to the inn—along with his piglet and pit bull puppy—everything changes. Spencer falls for Eddy, Bijou is unhappy with the sudden changes to her clan, and the townspeople are anything but welcoming; in fact, threats are made against Eddy when he buys the town’s historic firehouse in order to open a bakery.

Then a shocking murder/dognapping occurs on the night of the bakery’s grand opening, and Bijou finds herself thrust into a tangled mystery. To solve it, she will have to summon her inner Viking—and fight tooth and claw for her new clan.

Review

This book killed me with cute! Its Viking kitty Bijou portrayed the ultimate cat qualities perfectly by being equal parts silly and intelligent. I fell in love with her attitude and her imposed superiority over the other animals felt like real thoughts that could actually be going on in a cat’s head. Skunk the Pomeranian was a great comic relief and Hamlet the pig’s different sweaters made me melt! It wasn’t only the animals that stole my heart in this one but the characters’ names as well: the local hairdresser is Bobi Pinn, the police lieutenant is Lou Tennant, and the bakery is called Witching Flour. The fact that all this takes place in a sleepy Colorado mountain town made this book so cozy I wished it was snowing outside my Texas window.

I was so caught up in the adorable world-building going on that when the murder mystery aspect came up I was caught off-guard! I appreciated how it was a truly a whodunnit, there were a few people with motive and opportunity and the perpetrator wasn’t immediately obvious. For all those reasons I felt this book was a solid five stars and highly recommend if you’re an animal lover in search of a good mystery.

Thank you to the publisher Sparkpress and NetGalley for providing an advanced readers copy for review.

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