Book Review: Archie Volume 2 by Mark Waid

America’s Favorite Teenager, Archie Andrews, is reborn in the pages of this must-have graphic novel collecting the second six issues of the comic book series that everyone is talking about. Riverdale High teen Archie, his oddball, food-loving best friend Jughead, girl-next-door Betty and well-to-do snob Veronica Lodge as they embark on a modern reimagining of the beloved Archie world. It’s all here: the love triangle, friendship, humor, charm and lots of fun – but with a decidedly modern twist.

Volume 2 of the Archie series definitely picks up the drama, but for me I was mostly interested in the Betty and Veronica development in this issue.

Betty and Veronica are the classic best friends who are in a war for their sweetheart’s love.  Although, if you ask me they could both do a bit better than Archie in some ways. But, what are the Archie comics without that love triangle?

We finally get the two interacting, since in this version of Riverdale, Veronica is the new girl and immediately takes up with Archie, rather than connecting specifically with either Betty or Jughead (to be fair, V and Juggie never get along according to the original canon and still don’t in this.).

But FINALLY we get more canon Betty as an outstanding athlete, especially her talent at softball. This was something that made me identify with her from the very beginning back in the 90s (God, I’m old). Seeing her step up for her ex boyfriend/best friend and trying her hardest to help him get to the airport for Ronnie is stereotypical, amazing Betty. She is the outstanding character in this one, for me.

4 Bards.

Book Review: Archie Volume 1 by Mark Waid

America’s Favorite Teenager, Archie Andrews, is reborn in the pages of this must-have graphic novel collecting the first six issues of the comic book series that everyone is talking about. Meet Riverdale High teen Archie, his oddball, food-loving best friend Jughead, girl-next-door Betty and well-to-do snob Veronica Lodge as they embark on a modern reimagining of the beloved Archie world. It’s all here: the love triangle, friendship, humor, charm and lots of fun – but with a decidedly modern twist.

As an Archie Comic purist, it was a big hard for me to accept that they were rebooting the entire series back in 2015 with “The New Riverdale.” I honestly admit that it took me reading and absolutely loving the Afterlife with Archie series and The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina before I decided to finally give the new Archie a chance.

The art is definitely not the same that you’d expect if you have read the comics for over two decades, but honestly I really like the update that Veronica Fish and Annie Wu gave.  It makes the core four look more like real people from the 21st century rather than holding on to the old style that evolved over the 20th.  I never thought I’d say that!

The story starts with the break up of Betty Cooper and Archie Andrews. For some inexplicable reason Archie is breaking the fourth wall and narrating directly TO the reader rather than us simply stepping inside of his world as an outside viewer like we used to. I wasn’t a HUGE fan of this shift, because it felt very much like it slowed down the overall narrative for me and for fans who already know all of these characters. I do think it would be beneficial for new readers, but after the success of Riverdale I do think that most fans will just breeze past that.

In this first volume we learn about Jughead’s past as a former rich child, Betty’s love for mechanics and activism, Veronica’s limited musical ability, and Archie’s incredible ability to be as fickle as ever (he’s my least favorite character, if you didn’t know).  Also, Reggie is still Reggie.

I have to give the writers credit for really amping up the drama in this volume, and I’m sure it will just continue.

4 Bards.

Book Review and Playlist: Bad Call by Stephen Wallenfels

It was supposed to be epic.

During a late-night poker game, tennis teammates Colin, Ceo, Grahame, and Rhody make a pact to go on a camping trip in Yosemite National Park. And poker vows can’t be broken.

So the first sign that they should ditch the plan is when Rhody backs out. The next is when Ceo replaces him with Ellie, a girl Grahame and Colin have never even heard of. And then there’s the forest fire at their intended campsite.
But instead of bailing, they decide to take the treacherous Snow Creek Falls Trail to the top of Yosemite Valley. From there, the bad decisions really pile up.

A freak storm is threatening snow, their Craigslist tent is a piece of junk, and Grahame is pretty sure there’s a bear on the prowl. On top of that, the guys have some serious baggage (and that’s not including the ridiculously heavy ax that Grahame insisted on packing) and Ellie can’t figure out what their deal is.

And then one of them doesn’t make it back to the tent.
Desperate to survive while piecing together what happened, the remaining hikers must decide who to trust in this riveting, witty, and truly unforgettable psychological thriller that reveals how one small mistake can have chilling consequences. 

Well, you can definitely count me out on any possible hiking trip in Yosemite National Park after reading this. Okay, that’s definitely an exaggeration because I do love a good hike…hmm…Oh! You can count me out of ever camping in Yosemite National Park after reading this book.  In fact, camping in general.

This book was everything that has always made me terrified of camping and completely disconnecting from society: unexpected weather, wild animals, inappropriate camping gear, lack of sustenance, and of course, drama between all of the people camping together.

Yep, you guessed it, this killer thriller novel about teens hiking in the woods contains drama. To be fair, I will say that the relationship-y drama takes very much a back seat to the survival drama for the most part–at least for me. It was a welcome change, in all honesty.

Now, I’m not always a fan of switching point of views.  Especially if they are changing between sexes, if only because I find that some authors are not very good at switching between the two.  However, I have to give Wallenfels for using two very distinctive narrators that are different enough personality wise that it was easy to make the distinction (the titles of the chapters indicating who was narrating, not-with-standing).

I read Bad Call in one day, and it was definitely one of those reads that enthralls you and then leaves you wanting more at the very end.  If anything, my only negative comment is going to be how quickly the end was resolved.  After so much narrative build-up, it felt like we needed a bit more composition to get us from A to B, as it were.

Overall, I recommend this for fans of the outdoors and thrillers.

4 Bards!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Book Review & Playlist: Prince in Disguise by Stephanie Kate Strohm

Someday I want to live in a place where I never hear “You’re Dusty’s sister?” ever again.

Life is real enough for Dylan—especially as the ordinary younger sister of Dusty, former Miss Mississippi and the most perfect, popular girl in Tupelo. But when Dusty wins the hand of the handsome Scottish laird-to-be Ronan on the TRC television network’s crown jewel, Prince in Disguise, Dylan has to face a different kind of reality: reality TV.

As the camera crew whisks them off to Scotland to film the lead-up to the wedding, camera-shy Dylan is front and center as Dusty’s maid of honor. The producers are full of surprises—including old family secrets, long-lost relatives, and a hostile future mother-in-law who thinks Dusty and Dylan’s family isn’t good enough for her only son. At least there’s Jamie, an adorably bookish groomsman who might just be the perfect antidote to all Dylan’s stress . . . if she just can keep TRC from turning her into the next reality show sensation. 

Release Date: December 19, 2017

Around the holidays I tend to be more susceptible to a love story than I am on a normal average day, so when Hyperion sent me a copy of this book, I couldn’t resist.

This book is equal parts E! network and Jane Austen, via Bridget Jones’s Diary and I enjoyed every single page. It was a relaxing, albeit freezing, Southern December Sunday when I picked this book up…and finished it in that same exact spot. Strohm’s storytelling was lighthearted and fun, full of literary references that pleased this English Major, but not too many to make the Darcy character unlikeable or cold.  In fact, I think Strohm made Jamie the character I wish Darcy had been all along.  Although, that would have made Pride and Prejudice an entirely different narrative.

As someone with a sister, and a sister whom I love but don’t always agree, I really enjoyed the dynamic between Dusty and Dylan. It’s hard to capture that kind of sisterly relationship in words, and I think Strohm did an amazing job. I also adored the musical inspiration behind their names, because I am a sucker for classic music and obviously so was their mother.

I also came out of this novel knowing a lot more about Scottish culture than I ever thought I’d know, and so I’m officially skeptical of Haggis and all it is made of. Although, I do appreciate the Robert Burns celebration, as I am a sucker for his “A Red, Red Rose” poem.

Overall this book was delightfully written and I could have read two more books of Jamie and Dylan’s banter.

Instead I leave you with my 4 Bard rating and the playlist I created especially to celebrate this novel. Be sure to give it a listen, I chose my personal favorite Dylan song to represent Dylan. Let me know what you think in the comments!

 

 

 

 

Book Review: Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu

Moxie girls fight back!

Vivian Carter is fed up. Fed up with her small-town Texas high school that thinks the football team can do no wrong. Fed up with sexist dress codes and hallway harassment. But most of all, Viv Carter is fed up with always following the rules.

Viv’s mom was a punk rock Riot Grrrl in the ’90s, so now Viv takes a page from her mother’s past and creates a feminist zine that she distributes anonymously to her classmates. She’s just blowing off steam, but other girls respond. Pretty soon Viv is forging friendships with other young women across the divides of cliques and popularity rankings, and she realizes that what she has started is nothing short of a girl revolution.

Ever since I heard about this novel I have been waiting, very impatiently, for it to be released. In a time when the party in the White House is fronted by a man who proudly stated, when talking about women, to “Grab ’em by the Pussy,” this novel for young adults couldn’t be coming at a better time. I have high hopes that Mathieu’s novel will show that a movement can start in the simplest way and every action makes a difference.

The positives of this novel are almost unending because I loved all of it.  I did feel like there were certain parts or discourses happening between the characters that seemed a little awkward ONLY because I know that Mathieu was trying to get in the standard conversation about feminism and what feminism means into the narrative, so I forgive that really easily.

Moxie includes the version of feminism that we all should subscribe to: all inclusive and unapologetic. Thank you so much to Mathieu, especially, for including links in the acknowledgements for those coming newly to feminism to visit for more information, and for all of those links being inclusive of women of all races, religions, sexual orientations, and sexual identities. It’s important to remember that feminism isn’t true feminism unless it is intersectional.

I love Viv for being everything I wish I could have been in high school. I wish I had stood up to the patriarchal bullshit that meant the male sports received all of the support, that men didn’t have to subscribe to the dress code, and that their sarcastic comments were ignored while the girls were disciplined for saying anything remotely crass.  Needless to say I identified with Viv and the Moxie girls on a deep level. I played on the high school softball team that played in old uniforms and on an old baseball field with plastic “fences” brought in to mark the end of the field instead of an actual chainlink fence, so the plight of the soccer team in this book brought back some memories.

Seth, oh sweet Seth who I like to pretend was named after Seth Cohen in The O.C., I loved that Mathieu made him learn the hard way that you can be a feminist and still not recognize your privilege as a male. He learned a lot in the book, and was a superb love interest, but I think it was SO imperative for that dynamic to be represented here.

I loved this book so much and I wish SO MUCH that this had been out when I was still a teenager.

5 Bards

 

 

 

 

Check out Team Midsummer’s 67 Questions with author Jennifer Mathieu, too!

Book Review: Jane, Unlimited by Kristin Cashore

Jane has lived an ordinary life, raised by her aunt Magnolia—an adjunct professor and deep sea photographer. Jane counted on Magnolia to make the world feel expansive and to turn life into an adventure. But Aunt Magnolia was lost a few months ago in Antarctica on one of her expeditions.

Now, with no direction, a year out of high school, and obsessed with making umbrellas that look like her own dreams (but mostly just mourning her aunt), she is easily swept away by Kiran Thrash—a glamorous, capricious acquaintance who shows up and asks Jane to accompany her to a gala at her family’s island mansion called Tu Reviens.

Jane remembers her aunt telling her: “If anyone ever invites to you to Tu Reviens, promise me that you’ll go.” With nothing but a trunkful of umbrella parts to her name, Jane ventures out to the Thrash estate. Then her story takes a turn, or rather, five turns. What Jane doesn’t know is that Tu Reviens will offer her choices that can ultimately determine the course of her untethered life. But at Tu Reviens, every choice comes with a reward, or a price. 

This whole book is basically the episode of Doctor Who, Season 4, Episode 11 “Turn Left.” Each decision has a specific reaction that could change the outcome of the universe and Jane, Unlimited takes that idea to 5 different extremes.

At first glance, Cashore’s novel seems like a fun romp of an orphaned girl going to a private island with her rich acquaintance to get away from the hardships of every day life.  But it becomes so much more than that

I need a Jane Umbrella.

once the first part’s introduction is done.

This is a spoiler, so if you are looking for non-spoilery…I’m sorry, I find it almost impossible to review this book properly without being able to explain a certain aspect of the plot.  That is the theory of the multiverse.

Cashore does an excellent job creating what could be almost 5 separate novels based on one decision by Jane toward the beginning of the book.

Jane is a complex and yet somehow still simple character. I love that the umbrellas she creates represent her need to protect herself from the outside world that robbed her of her parents and her aunt. It’s excellent.

I think the crowning achievement in this is that the ending makes it seem like it is up to the reader to decide which ending is THE ending, if that makes sense.  Sure, there is the last scenario in the possibilities as explained in the novel, but it isn’t definitive that this is the clear ending. I love it.

I know this novel is probably going to be divisive between Cashore fans and those readers who haven’t read her previously, because of the nature of the narrative.

However, for my purposes I’m giving this book 4 Bards. It has romance, diversity, intrigue, fantasy, and so much more.

Give it a shot, I promise it will be an interesting read.

Book Review: When the Moon was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore

To everyone who knows them, best friends Miel and Sam are as strange as they are inseparable. Roses grow out of Miel’s wrist, and rumors say that she spilled out of a water tower when she was five. Sam is known for the moons he paints and hangs in the trees, and for how little anyone knows about his life before he and his mother moved to town.

But as odd as everyone considers Miel and Sam, even they stay away from the Bonner girls, four beautiful sisters rumored to be witches. Now they want the roses that grow from Miel’s skin, convinced that their scent can make anyone fall in love. And they’re willing to use every secret Miel has fought to protect to make sure she gives them up.

This. Book. Was. Amazing.

It’s been so long since I’ve read a novel of magical realism that touched me as deeply as When the Moon was Ours. It’s hard to live up to 100 Years of Solitude in terms of magical realism, but hell yeah McLemore has earned her spot in my heart along with García Márquez.

This story is so much deeper than what the synopsis implies; in fact, I find the synopsis doesn’t do this narrative justice. I wish that it would mention how inclusive this story is and how beautifully it explains the fears, memories, and secrets that everyone holds inside them wishing no one would hear or discover. I interpreted Miel’s roses as a way of expressing how those things can affect our outward world completely, and while we all don’t have roses growing beautifully and painfully out of our wrists, our emotions affect how we present ourselves to those around us. So much applause for McLemore on this.

Be aware that magical realism might take a few chapters to draw you in, but stick with it- it’s worth it!

Seriously, this review is going to be me gushing for the most part.  I understand the town that McLemore has created around Miel and Sam. The small town where any weirdness is outcast and those who don’t fit into the picture of normality are the topic of hurtful gossip, name calling, and more.  It’s so realistically done even though the narrative is told specifically through the eyes of Miel and Sam.

This is probably a spoiler, so I’m going to preface it by saying that, but Sam’s journey throughout this novel was absolutely wonderful. Sam is a transgender boy and I can honestly say I’ve not read a passage from a book about transgender identity that has described the experience for those individuals better than this one:

The endless, echoing use of she and her, miss and ma’am. Yes, they were words. They were all just words. But each of them was wrong, and they stuck to him. Each one was a golden fire ant, and they were biting his arms and his neck and his bound-flat chest, leaving him bleeding and burning.

He. Him. Mister. Sir. Even teachers admonishing him and his classmates with boys, settle down or gentleman, please. These were sounds as perfect and clean as winter rain, and they calmed each searing bite of those wrong words. 

Beautifully written with the narrative full of lush depictions of nature this is a book you don’t want to miss. Anyone looking for an LGBTQ book recommendation: here it is. Read it, Love it, and Share with others.

4.5 Bards to When the Moon was Ours.

TTBF Author Repost Book Review: Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy

 

Team Midsummer, Jessica & Lyv, are attending the Texas Teen Book Festival again this year in Austin, TX! To prepare and get ourselves amped-up for this event, we are reposting some of our reviews by some of the TTBF 17 authors!

This review was originally posted on November 3, 2015

 

dumplin

Self-proclaimed fat girl Willowdean Dickson (dubbed “Dumplin’” by her former beauty queen mom) has always been at home in her own skin. Her thoughts on having the ultimate bikini body? Put a bikini on your body. With her all-American beauty best friend, Ellen, by her side, things have always worked…until Will takes a job at Harpy’s, the local fast-food joint. There she meets Private School Bo, a hot former jock. Will isn’t surprised to find herself attracted to Bo. But she is surprised when he seems to like her back.

Instead of finding new heights of self-assurance in her relationship with Bo, Will starts to doubt herself. So she sets out to take back her confidence by doing the most horrifying thing she can imagine: entering the Miss Clover City beauty pageant—along with several other unlikely candidates—to show the world that she deserves to be up there as much as any twiggy girl does. Along the way, she’ll shock the hell out of Clover City—and maybe herself most of all. 

As someone who suffered from body dysmorphia and a full blown eating disorder, I’m really proud of Julie Murphy and Willowdean as a character.  I wish that I had been as somewhat confident as she was when I was in high school. I can tell you that I was of average size, but as many high schoolers can tell you, everyone is plagued by self doubt and the feeling that everyone is staring at you and judging you.  I wish that this book had existed when I was seventeen.

Basically, Willowdean lives in a little bubble of a town with her enigmatic, skinny, tall best friend, her former pagent queen mother, the ghost of her aunt haunting her childhood home, and a job at the local fast food restaurant. This book really shows how crazy intertwined our body image is with our self worth.  Willowdean, up until Bo kisses her for the first time, really isn’t that tortured by the way she looks or the way that others view her.  Her kryptonite at this point really is just the class jock who also happens to be the class jerk.  Once she starts being pursued by someone who doesn’t fit into the picture she had of how her life would go, she immediately begins to question everything.

She even goes as far as to self sabotage her own semi-relationship with Bo after finding out that he would be attending the same school as her, out of fear for how her classmateswould perceive their relationship.  Or rather, how embarassing it would be for him to be seen with her since she is just a fat girl.  This is so important, to remember that we only expect the love we think we deserve (to paraphrase Perks).  I’m not a huge Dolly Parton fan, but I do know the song Jolene, so I can appreciate the interpretation of the song within the novel.

So Willowdean makes mistakes.  She is so wonderfully realistically constructed as a character that it was almost impossible for me to not feel connected to her and her journey.  I strongly encourage you to pick up a copy of this book and enjoy this character’s journey.

4 Bards to Dumplin’

fourbards

TTBF Author Repost Book Review: We Were Liars by E. Lockhart


Team Midsummer, Jessica & Lyv, are attending the Texas Teen Book Festival again this year in Austin, TX! To prepare and get ourselves amped-up for this event, we are reposting some of our reviews by some of the TTBF 17 authors! Today features one of Jessica’s all time favorites: E. Lockhart!

This review was originally posted on August 14, 2014

 

A beautiful and distinguished family.
A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
True love.
The truth.

When I met E. Lockhart at Book Expo America, I was trying so hard not to fangirl because I had been looking forward to this book for months.  Not only did I get a chance to meet her, but she also write an essential message in my copy of the book (which I’m sure she wrote in everyone’s) “Please Lie About This Book.”

Well, it is impossible for me to lie about how much I enjoyed this book.  I want to tell you so much about it in order to convince you to read it, but this is a book that needs to be discovered by each person individually.  The story line is excellent.  There I will tell you that much.

Lockhart’s writing style in this novel really helps add to the characterization of the narrator, Cadence (which is a elockharttweetname I’ve always loved), and it allows the reader to discover things as Cadence does…kind of.  This novel really explores the idea of an unreliable narrator.

I’ve said too much!

I cannot praise this book highly enough, and I won’t tarnish your reading experience with anymore.  Trust me, you will enjoy it immensely.

5 Bards  (I know you asked me to lie, E. Lockhart, but I decided to just withhold information instead!)

 

fivebards

Blog Tour: The Inevitable Collision of Birdie & Bash Book Excerpt

 

It’s our day on the Birdie & Bash blog tour and we are here to introduce you to a bit of the narrative!  Check out the synopsis, a bit about the author, and an exclusive excerpt below!

Birdie never meant to be at the party. Bash should have been long gone. But when they meet, a collision course is set off they may never recover from.

Sebastian Alvaréz is just trying to hold the pieces together: to not flunk out, to keep his sort-of-best friend Wild Kyle from doing something really bad, and to see his beloved Ma through chemo. But when he meets Birdie Paxton, a near-Valedictorian who doesn’t realize she’s smoking hot in her science pun T-shirt, at a party, an undeniable attraction sparks. And suddenly he’s not worried about anything. But before they are able to exchange numbers, they are pulled apart. A horrifying tragedy soon links Birdie and Bash together—but neither knows it. When they finally reconnect, and are starting to fall—hard—the events of the tragedy unfold, changing both their lives in ways they can never undo. 

Release Date: July 25, 2017

 

 

 

Candace Ganger is a young adult author, contributing writer for Hello Giggles, and obsesswive marathoner. Aside from having past lives as a singer, nanotechnology website editor, and the world’s worst vacuum sales rep, she’s also ghostwritten hundreds of projects for companies, best-selling fiction and award-winning nonfiction authors alike. Candace – aka – Candyland – has a severe Milky Way latter addiction + eats way too many donuts/doughnuts but all things in excess, amiright? FYI: She’s TOTALLY awkward in person (#sorrynotsorry). She lives in Ohio with her family.

 

 

 

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