Doctor Mirage (2019) by Magdalene Visaggio, Nick Robles – #eARC #GraphicNovelReview

ARC, Book Reviews, Fantasy, General Books, Graphic Novel, Science Fiction

Goodreads: Doctor Mirage (2019)
Publish date: 18 February 2020
Publisher: Diamond Books Distributor/Valiant Entertainment
Genre: Graphic Novel, Fantasy, Science Fiction, Superhero
Panda Rating:

How do you solve the case of your own death?

Paranormal expert Doctor Shan Fong Mirage was born with the ability to see and speak to the dead—an ability that has mysteriously stopped working. Have her powers failed or is something far more sinister at work? Will she figure out her fate and the fate of the one she loves the most? Valiant’s gripping supernatural mystery starts here!

A brand-new DOCTOR MIRAGE series conjured by Eisner Award-nominated writer Magdalene “Mags” Visaggio (Eternity Girl), artist Nick Robles (Euthanauts), Eisner Award-nominated colorist Jordie Bellaire (The Vision), and letterer Dave Sharpe (Harley Quinn)!

I admit to requesting this book based solely on the cover alone. The name “Doctor Mirage” rang a small bell but I actually haven’t read superhero comics, so I can’t speak to how differently or how well her character is portrayed in this new comic compared to previous ones. I will say that I really enjoyed it though!

Trophy Life by Lea Geller – #eARC #BookReview

ARC, Book Reviews, Chick Lit, Contemporary, Fiction, General Books, Women's Fiction

Goodreads: Trophy Life
Publish date: 09 April 2019
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Chick Lit, Women’s Fiction
Panda Rating:

For the last ten years, Agnes Parsons’s biggest challenge has been juggling yoga classes and lunch dates. Her Santa Monica house staff takes care of everything, leaving Agnes to focus on her trophy-wife responsibilities: look perfect, adore her older husband, and wear terribly expensive (if uncomfortable) underwear.

When her husband disappears, leaving Agnes and their infant daughter with no money, no home, and no staff, she is forced to move across the country, where she lands a job teaching at an all-boys boarding school in the Bronx. So long, organic quinoa bowls and sunshine-filled California life. Hello, processed food, pest-infested house, and twelve-year-old-boy humor—all day, every day.

But it’s in this place of second chances (and giant bugs), where Agnes is unexpectedly forced to take care of herself and her daughter, where she finds out the kind of woman she can be. Ultimately, she has to decide if she prefers the woman and mother she has become…or the trophy life she left behind.

This was slow to start and was a little difficult to get into at first but once the story got rolling, I found the ‘light and fluffy’ contemporary I expected. I didn’t find it very surprising or different to anything that I’ve read in women’s fiction before though. For some reason (probably based on the cover) I might have thought the story and characters would be more comedic, but it was still an enjoyable and entertaining enough read.

Under the Cottonwood Tree: El Susto de la Curandera – #eARC #GraphicNovelReview

ARC, Book Reviews, Dystopia, General Books, Graphic Novel, Science Fiction

Goodreads: Under the Cottonwood Tree: El Susto de la Curandera
Publish date: 15 December 2019
Publisher: North Fourth Publishing
Genre: Graphic Novel, Fantasy, Middle Grade
Panda Rating:

In the deep confines of the beautiful and majestic Rio Grande bosque, a fable is told of a simpler time concerning the rich tri-cultural communities of New Mexico. Join brothers Amadeo and Carlos Lucero in this enchanting story of magic and adventure. Discover how the power of love and family triumphs and turns an old witch back into a healer.

This was an absolutely delightful tale of family, friendship, grief and love that is richly infused with Mexican folklore and culture. I knew I would love this graphic novel the minute I started reading it! This was a very fast-paced read and I easily read it one sitting (mostly because I didn’t want to put it down). The personal touches in both the foreword and afterword made me enjoy this more, as reading the history of how this story came to be and the authors’ personal connections with their own curanderas showed how much the story meant to them.

Human by Diego Agrimbau, Lucas Varela – #eARC #GraphicNovelReview

ARC, Book Reviews, Dystopia, General Books, Graphic Novel, Science Fiction

Goodreads: Human
Publish date: 16 October 2019
Publisher: Europe Comics
Genre: Graphic Novel, Post-Apocalytpic, Science Fiction
Panda Rating:

Planet Earth: 500,000 years in the future. Humans have been extinct for millennia. Two scientists, Robert and June, have been orbiting the Earth, waiting for the planet to become habitable once more. With the help of a team of robots, they plan to start over from scratch: a new Adam and Eve who won’t make the same mistakes as their ancestors. But first Robert has to find June, who seems to have landed somewhere else in this vast jungle—their Eden—full of grotesque creatures and strange primates…

This was a pretty bizarre graphic novel that I’m not quite sure I loved. I was immediately drawn in by the cover and the synopsis, which presented a pretty interesting post apocalyptic tale about returning to earth 500,000 years post death (both humanity’s and Earth’s). The story was well illustrated, however, the illustration style wasn’t what I expected when I picked this up. I thought the color palette of reds, greys, black and white was an interesting choice though; in a way it made earth seem a little bit leached of life, although that clearly wasn’t the case as there was plenty of animals living in the jungle. While I wasn’t a big fan of the illustrations, I thought the overall message of the story was very thought-provoking and made reflect on our relationship with our surroundings.

The Curious Heart of Ailsa Rae by Stephanie Butland – #eARC #BookReview

ARC, Book Reviews, Chick Lit, Contemporary, Fiction, General Books, Women's Fiction

Goodreads: The Curious Heart of Ailsa Rae
Publish date: 29 October 2019
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Chick Lit, Women’s Fiction
Panda Rating:

Ailsa Rae is learning how to live.
She’s only a few months past the heart transplant that – just in time – saved her life. Life should be a joyful adventure. But…

Her relationship with her mother is at breaking point.
She knows she needs to find her father.
She’s missed so much that her friends have left her behind.
She’s felt so helpless for so long that she’s let polls on her blog make her decisions for her. And now she barely knows where to start on her own.

And then there’s Lennox. Her best friend and one time lover. He was sick too. He didn’t make it. And now she’s supposed to face all of this without him.

But her new heart is a bold heart.
She just needs to learn to listen to it…

The Curious Heart of Ailsa Rae was a heartwarming (no pun intended) story about health, family, friendship, love, grief and quite simply ‘adulting’. Ailsa was born with a heart condition which meant that for most of her life she was too ill to really live. She wasn’t completely unexperienced and sheltered although she missed out on a lot of the ‘normal things’ that kids, teenagers and young adults experienced because her heart and body simply couldn’t handle it. She started to blog about her ‘blue heart’ and what her life was like as she waited for a transplant, until she finally gets the new heart she has literally been waiting for her whole life. It’s not a fast paced read and while there’s a lot of changes that happen, it’s not a larger-than-life miracle story either. It’s set in Edinburgh and as you might know by now it’s one of my favourite places! The author really made the city come to life and I could practically feel myself navigating the streets alongside Ailsa and it was such a wonderful feeling!

Bury the Lede by Gaby Dunn, Claire Roe – #eARC #BookReview

ARC, Book Reviews, Crime-Thriller-Mystery, General Books, Graphic Novel

Goodreads: Bury the Lede
Publish date: 08 October 2019
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
Genre: Crime Thriller, Mystery, Graphic Novel, LGBTQ+
Panda Rating:

Twenty-one-year-old Madison T. Jackson is already the star of the Emerson College student newspaper when she nabs a coveted night internship at Boston’s premiere newspaper, The Boston Lede. The job’s simple: do whatever the senior reporters tell you to do, from fetching coffee to getting a quote from a grieving parent. It’s gruelling work, so when the murder of a prominent Boston businessman comes up on the police scanner, Madison races to the scene of the grisly crime. There, Madison meets the woman who will change her life forever: prominent socialite Dahlia Kennedy, who is covered in gore and being arrested for the murder of her family. The newspapers put everyone they can in front of her with no results until, with nothing to lose, Madison gets a chance – and unexpectedly barrels headfirst into danger she never anticipated.

I love discovering new graphic novels and I requested this because the cover hooked my interest, plus I don’t think never read a crime noir graphic novel/comic before! Bury the Lede was mostly what I anticipated it to be, although there were some elements that really grated on my nerves and that’s what made me only give it three stars.

TH1RT3EN (Eddie Flynn #4) by Steve Cavanagh – #eARC #BookReview

ARC, Book Reviews, Crime-Thriller-Mystery, Fiction, General Books

Goodreads: TH1RT3EN (Eddie Flynn #4)
Publish date: 13 August 2019
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Genre: Crime Thriller, Mystery
Panda Rating:

The serial killer isn’t on trial.
He’s on the jury…


They were Hollywood’s hottest power couple. They had the world at their feet. Now one of them is dead and Hollywood star Robert Solomon is charged with the brutal murder of his beautiful wife.

This is the celebrity murder trial of the century and the defence want one man on their team: con artist turned lawyer Eddie Flynn.

All the evidence points to Robert’s guilt, but as the trial begins a series of sinister incidents in the courtroom start to raise doubts in Eddie’s mind.

What if there’s more than one actor in the courtroom?
What if the killer isn’t on trial? What if the killer is on the jury?

Wow, what an incredible ride! Again, I’m facepalming myself for not reading this as soon as I got it on NetGalley because I loved every minute of this fast-paced courtroom drama and crime thriller. This book was like reading an episode of Criminal Minds and I could so clearly picture everything unfolding before me as if I watching it on TV. I knew I had to read this one as soon as I read the synopsis and saw that “the killer isn’t on trial, he’s on the jury”! I mean, is there a cleverer way of catching the reader’s attention with a blurb like that? It definitely worked it’s magic on me.

The Death of Baseball by Orlando Ortega-Medina – #eARC #BookReview

ARC, Book Reviews, Fiction, General Books, LGBTQ+

Goodreads: The Death of Baseball
Publish date: 19 November 2019
Publisher: Cloud Lodge Books
Genre: Literary Fiction, LGBTQ+
Panda Rating:

Former Little League champion Kimitake “Clyde” Koba finds strength in the belief that he is the reincarnation of Marilyn Monroe as he struggles to escape the ghost of his brother and his alcoholic father.

Born on Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish calendar, teen prodigy Raphael Dweck has been told his whole life that he has a special purpose in God’s plan. The only problem is, he can’t shake off his doubts, his urges, or the trail of trouble and ruin that follow in his wake.

A decade later, Raphael and ‘Marilyn’ find each other wandering the plastic-bright streets of Hollywood and set out to make a documentary about the transmigration of souls. But when the roleplaying goes too far, they find themselves past the point of no return in their quest to prove who and what they are to their families, God, the world, and themselves.

The Black Mage by Daniel Barnes & DJ Kirkland – #ARC #GraphicNovel #Review

ARC, Book Reviews, Fantasy, General Books, Graphic Novel, Historical Fiction

Goodreads: The Black Mage
Publish date: 29 October 2019
Genre: Graphic Novel, Historical Fiction, Fantasy, Young Adult
Rating: ★★★.5☆☆

When St. Ivory Academy, a historically white wizarding school, opens its doors to its first-ever black student, everyone believes that the wizarding community is finally taking its first crucial steps toward inclusivity. Or is it? When Tom Token, the beneficiary of the school’s “Magical Minority Initiative,” begins uncovering weird clues and receiving creepy texts on his phone, he and his friend, Lindsay, stumble into a conspiracy that dates all the way back to the American Civil War, and could cost Tom his very soul.

Wow, this was a cool concept for a story: Harry Potter meets American Civil War history and the KKK. I don’t think I’ve ever read a fantasy novel that incorporates deep elements of racism in it! This artwork isn’t the type that I usually like, but I think it suited the story and I especially liked the use of all the colors. I really enjoyed the HP setting of the school! Honestly, it was a little terrifying to see all the KKK outfits being worn by children in school (even if it’s just fiction) and the thought of them having ‘magical powers’ in a fantasy world where they are still the oppressors, was also a terrifying thought.

One aspect that I didn’t enjoy so much at the start was that there’s a lot of text in the speech bubbles and I felt like I had to really zoom in to be able to read it all properly (so that broke up the panels a bit weirdly). As the story progressed there was still a lot of text in certain speech bubbles but for the most part it lessened. Since this is a standalone(?) the story progressed very quickly and it also wrapped up very quickly and neatly, which was kind of “eh”. I honestly would’ve liked to have the story be longer so that we get to learn more about the characters, and to get some character development in the story as well. The ending while “happy” not only felt too abrupt but also a little unresolved — I mean, how does the school still exist? I want to know more. Overall though, I’m glad that I decided to pick this up. It was an interesting read!

Thanks to NetGalley and the publishers for the free copy in exchange for an honest review! This graphic novel is out 29 October 2019.

On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness (The Wingfeather Saga #1) by Andrew Petersen – #eARC #BookReview

ARC, Book Reviews, Fantasy, General Books, Humor, Kid Fiction, Middle Grade, Science Fiction

Goodreads: On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness (The Wingfeather Saga #1)
Publish date: 10 March 2020
Publisher: WaterBrook & Multnomah
Genre: Middle Grade, Children’s Book, Fantasy, Science Fiction
Panda Rating:

Janner Igiby, his brother, Tink, and their disabled sister, Leeli, are gifted children as all children are, loved well by a noble mother and ex-pirate grandfather. But they will need all their gifts and all that they love to survive the evil pursuit of the venomous Fangs of Dang, who have crossed the dark sea to rule the land with malice. The Igibys hold the secret to the lost legend and jewels of good King Wingfeather of the Shining Isle of Anniera.

Full of characters rich in heart, smarts, and courage, On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness is a tale children of all ages will cherish, families can read aloud, and readers’ groups are sure to enjoy discussing for its many layers of meaning. Extra features include new interior illustrations from Joe Sutphin, funny footnotes, a map of the fantastical world, inventive appendices, and fanciful line art in the tradition of the original Frank L. Baum Wizard of Oz storybooks.

It’s been a very long time since I read any middle grade books but I’ve recently added a few to my shelves that have been well praised by many book lovers, and when I saw the cover for this book I immediately wanted to read it because it’s simply a really attractive cover (yes, I’m judging a book by it’s cover so hard now). Plus, the blurb sounded good and I enjoyed the excerpt I read of it!

That said, while I was generally entertained by the book, I also found myself unexpectedly bored for certain periods of time (off-pacing), and I think that the story was going on for a lot longer than it should’ve. I was also unsure about the use of the footnotes. While some of the footnotes were interesting, I found that even if I didn’t read them, I wasn’t missing out on anything other than a humorous story or anecdote. I’m also wondering if footnotes are something young readers (especially middle graders) would appreciate? I don’t recall ever reading a book with footnotes in it when I was younger unless it was non-fiction or a textbook, and as an adult reader, I’m still not always a fan of footnotes; unless they really added key/important elements to the world building and the story itself.

I think one of the things I struggled with was not being able to form a connection with the story overall and in particular with the characters. I liked the Igiby family well enough–Janner, Tink and Leeli were interesting characters–but I just didn’t feel as invested in their journey as I hoped to be. Perhaps my favorite characters in the story were Peet and Nugget (the doggo, reasons for which go without saying. He’s a loyal companion to the Igiby children, particularly for Leeli)!

Peet was a courageous side-character who suffered from (what I can tell) possible mental health issues and a disability. He was pitied in town and was treated pretty awfully by the Igiby heads of house (Podo and Nia) for a reason that only becomes apparent at the end, but to me never justified the unfair treatment of his character. While I started off liking Podo’s character, his awful treatment of Peet was so distasteful and made me like him a lot less (it says a lot about a person’s character IRL just as much as in a book)! The Fangs of Dang were obviously awful characters we were meant to hate and the author did a great job of stoking those feelings against these characters. I thought the disability rep with Leeli’s and Podo’s characters was really great. Leeli was such a strong female character that had a fierce independent streak. I loved that her disability didn’t stop her from having adventures and getting up to mischief with her brothers; her disability was normalized (as in, it didn’t hamper her in any way) and it was nice to see that being shown in books to such a young audience.

As this was an e-ARC, most of the illustrations and maps were not yet included, so that was also a little bit disappointing because the illustrations that were already included in the story were pretty amazing! I can only imagine how much fun these illustrations will be to look at once it’s done (and in color too)! Overall, while I was really pulled in by the premise of this story, I found it a bit difficult to get into and that’s what made me remove stars. I wish that the pacing was more consistent but it was still an enjoyable enough read. I think many young middle grade readers would enjoy it too!

Thanks to NetGalley and the author for the e-ARC in exchange for an honest review. This new hard cover edition is out March 2020.
Have you read The Wingfeather Saga books? Let’s
chat in the comments!