A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro

Title: A Study in Charlotte
Author: Brittany Cavallaro
Series: Charlotte Holmes, #1
Pages: 321
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Release Date: March 1st 2016

      “The last thing Jamie Watson wants is a rugby scholarship to Sherringford, a Connecticut prep school just an hour away from his estranged father. But that’s not the only complication: Sherringford is also home to Charlotte Holmes, the famous detective’s great-great-great-granddaughter, who has inherited not only Sherlock’s genius but also his volatile temperament. From everything Jamie has heard about Charlotte, it seems safer to admire her from afar.
      From the moment they meet, there’s a tense energy between them, and they seem more destined to be rivals than anything else. But when a Sherringford student dies under suspicious circumstances, ripped straight from the most terrifying of the Sherlock Holmes stories, Jamie can no longer afford to keep his distance. Jamie and Charlotte are being framed for murder, and only Charlotte can clear their names. But danger is mounting and nowhere is safe—and the only people they can trust are each other.

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“It was like a nightmare. Branches lashed back at me as I ran, leaving stringing welts across my face, my arms. More than once, my foot caught on a tree root and sent me sprawling, and when I picked myself up, they were that much farther away.”

Brittany Cavallaro’s A Study in Charlotte is a book I enjoyed right away, but as the story went on there were far too many issues that I can’t rightly rate it above two starts. As a descendant of the famous Dr. Watson, Jamie has always felt destined to meet his counterpart Charlotte Holmes and when he ends up at the same boarding school, he finally gets an opportunity. As a member of the Holmes family, Charlotte has had a lot of expectations on her shoulders, but she hasn’t always lived up to what’s expected of her. Unlike Jamie, she has no interest in a friendship with him, but when the two of them become the number one suspects in the murder of a fellow student, they must team up and figure out who is trying to frame them.

I really feel like the synopsis for this novel promises more than it could deliver. I was initially thrown for a loop when the book opened with Jamie’s point of view and was disappointed that the novel didn’t feature a dual perspective. I really liked Jamie’s voice and found him to be a really sensitive character. He has a lot of issues with his father remarrying and secretly wants to be a writer. He has a lot anger issues stemming from this and has gotten into physical fights in the past, but instead of this being introduced as a problem he needs to learn to control, it was just a characterization readers are expected to accept and then move on from. Unfortunately because the novel is told only from Jamie’s perspective, we only get to explore Charlotte’s character from his perspective. This wouldn’t be such a bad thing, but Jamie has a really romanticized view of who Charlotte is even before he meets her that she doesn’t feel quite like a real person at any point.

Charlotte remains as much of a mystery as the one Jamie and her are trying to solve. We learn that she’s been raised to hone her deductive skills, that she has a hard time forming relationships, and that she finds it easier to be logical than sentimental. She’s incredibly intuitive, but also seems rather lonely. The novel introduces Charlotte as a girl with a drug problem. The novel really never gets into the nitty-gritty of her opioid addiction and I found it hard to believe that Charlotte could stave off her serious addiction with just a few cigarettes. I really felt like Charlotte’s character got the short end of the stick in this novel and this really bothered me especially when it seemed like the author wanted to center Jamie’s feelings and his perspective so often.

I haven’t seen a review that addresses how the novel deals with sexual assault and its this aspect of the novel that bothered me the most. While the novel never gets graphic while describing the character’s rape, I felt really uncomfortable with how the author initially centered Jamie’s feelings upon discovering that Charlotte had been raped by another student. The story never shows how Charlotte has been processing this and is only addressed by her head on when Jamie’s and her relationship is propelled into a potentially romantic one. There’s also the fact that the villain deliberately enabled this student to take advantage of Charlotte and I cannot wrap my brain around why the author felt the need to include this particular twist at all. It also really got under my skin when Jamie started to suspect Charlotte had a romantic relationship with an older guy when she was fourteen and his immediate reaction is Charlotte must have been the initiator or that she somehow manipulate this adult because she happens to be extremely intelligent. The emotional maturity of a fourteen-year-old girl is never taken into account in his thought-process and the more I think about it, the angrier I get.

Overall, Brittany Cavallaro’s A Study in Charlotte had potential in terms of its concept. The mystery aspect was interesting and I liked the idea of the descendants of Sherlock and Watson meeting for the first time and being able to forge their own paths, but inadequate characterization as well as the author using an unnecessary plot device made this one a disappointment.



I Believe in a Thing Called Love by Maurene Goo

Title: I Believe in a Thing Called Love
Author: Maurene Goo
Series: N/A
Pages: 336
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Release Date: May 30th 2017

      “Desi Lee believes anything is possible if you have a plan. That’s how she became student body president. Varsity soccer star. And it’s how she’ll get into Stanford. But—she’s never had a boyfriend. In fact, she’s a disaster in romance, a clumsy, stammering humiliation magnet whose botched attempts at flirting have become legendary with her friends. So when the hottest human specimen to have ever lived walks into her life one day, Desi decides to tackle her flirting failures with the same zest she’s applied to everything else in her life. She finds guidance in the Korean dramas her father has been obsessively watching for years—where the hapless heroine always seems to end up in the arms of her true love by episode ten. It’s a simple formula, and Desi is a quick study. Armed with her “K Drama Steps to True Love,” Desi goes after the moody, elusive artist Luca Drakos—and boat rescues, love triangles, and staged car crashes ensue. But when the fun and games turn to true feels, Desi finds out that real love is about way more than just drama.

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“But I never lost the belief that you could will something just by sticking to it, by being unwavering. By keeping your eyes on the prize. And by doing that, there was nothing you couldn’t control about your own life.

Maurene Goo’s I Believe in a Thing Called Love is entertaining from start to finish with a lovable protagonist that you can’t help but root for. Goo’s latest novel follows the overachieving Desi Lee as she embarks on a scheme inspired by Korean dramas to snag her first boyfriend. The story opens with Desi explaining how important resolve is in achieving one’s goals. She’s the kind of girl who always has a plan, who sees something she wants and does everything she can to get it. The very definition of an overachiever, there hasn’t been anything that Desi has wanted that she hasn’t achieved by determination and hard work alone. Boys on the other hand are another story. She’s a walking disaster when it comes to her crushes, never being able to go further than the crush stage. When Luca Drakos walks into her life, Desi decides that if she can only apply the same kind of can-do attitude to her love life that she’s used to accomplish her other goals she can finally get her first boyfriend. I Believe in a Thing Called Love finds just the right balance between humor and seriousness, as the heroine’s schemes take on a life of their own and she begins to realize that love is not something that you can make happen just because you will it.

Desi’s ambitions are only overshadowed by her ability to accomplish anything she sets her mind to. Most of her goals are school-related and were created with the ultimate goal in mind: to get into Stanford and follow in her mother’s footsteps. I was immediately taken in by Desi’s voice. She’s enthusiastic, funny, and self-depreciating. When it occurs to her that her father’s K dramas are more than just entertainment, they contain a blueprint for her to finally get one of her crushes to fall for her back, she throws everything she has into a plan and doesn’t look back. Her gung-ho attitude pulled me right into the story where I felt truly invested and despite that gnawing feeling in the back of my head that told me that somewhere along the line, Desi’s plans would have some sort of falling out, I very much wanted her to succeed. Despite the lightness of this contemporary novel, Goo takes time to explore Desi’s motivations. She has this idea in her head that she can make anything happen as long as she is determined enough and has a plan. Since her mother’s passing, Desi has tried her best to never worry her father and in many ways, she feels she is responsible for keeping his head above water. She is used to being in control, has a hard time letting go, and struggles to reconcile the idea that love has to happen in an organic way for it to be real.

Goo does a phenomenal job of flushing out Desi’s love interest Luca. In the beginning, we learn very little about him. He’s just moved to a new school, is artistically inclined, and Desi of course is very much attracted to him. Though Desi tries through a series of steps to put herself in his way to get him to notice her, it’s the unplanned tête-à-têtes that give readers a more insightful look into who Luca is. Unlike Desi, he doesn’t have a close relationship with his father, and his art is incredibly important and personal to him. Though he comes off as laid back at first, he’s hiding a passion that rivals Desi’s. It was hard not to smile with Desi coming up with foolish scheme after foolish scheme and Luca being none the wiser. That being said, I’m glad Goo acknowledged that what Desi was doing could be considered manipulation. This guilt kept eating away at Desi as she got to know Luca and even more so when she discovered he has a lot of trust issues.

I loved the minor characters in this novel as well. Desi’s two best friends, Wes and Fiona, were really important people in her life and I love that they all had distinct personalities. Fiona in particular was often the voice of reason, but still supported her friend. Of the minor characters, no one compares to Desi’s father. One of the sweetest literary fathers I’ve ever come across, Desi’s dad stole my heart in this one. Hardworking, loving, and understanding, Desi could not have had a better father to get her through the years without her mother.

If you’re looking for a cute summer read, I Believe in a Thing Called Love is the perfect book to unwind with. Full of swoony and laugh-out-loud moments, Maurene Goo has put together a novel that had my face aching from smiling too much and is one I’d recommend to all contemporary fans.



Mini Reviews: The Upside of Unrequited + The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms

MiniTime for another round of mini-reviews. If you ever have trouble writing reviews, I’d recommend writing a couple of mini-reviews throughout the month. I always have those days when writing a full review feels impossible, so having the mini-review in my back pocket is always helpful. Today, I’m sharing a few thoughts on Becky Albertalli’s The Upside of Unrequited and N.K. Jemisin’s The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms. Hope you enjoy. Also, I apologize for one of these mini-reviews being less mini than I originally intended. Whoops. Covers below are linked to Goodreads.

Title: The Upside of Unrequited
Author: Becky Albertalli
Series: N/A
Pages: 336
Publisher: Balzer & Bray
Release Date: April 11th 2017 

      “Seventeen-year-old Molly Peskin-Suso knows all about unrequited love. No matter how many times her twin sister, Cassie, tells her to woman up, Molly can’t stomach the idea of rejection. So she’s careful. Fat girls always have to be careful.
      Then a cute new girl enters Cassie’s orbit, and for the first time ever, Molly’s cynical twin is a lovesick mess. Meanwhile, Molly’s totally not dying of loneliness—except for the part where she is. Luckily, Cassie’s new girlfriend comes with a cute hipster-boy sidekick. If Molly can win him over, she’ll get her first kiss and she’ll get her twin back.

      There’s only one problem: Molly’s coworker, Reid. He’s a chubby Tolkien superfan with a season pass to the Ren Faire, and there’s absolutely no way Molly could fall for him.

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“I’ve never told anyone this—not my moms, not even Cassie—but that’s the thing I’m most afraid of. Not mattering. Existing in a world that doesn’t care who I am.”

I’m one of the few readers left who hasn’t picked up Becky Albertalli’s Simon Vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda. I do plan to read it this summer, but her most recent work The Upside of Unrequited has received so much praise, in a moment of weakness, I ended up checking it out from the library. Molly Peskin-Suso has never been in a relationship. Known for her constant crushes, Molly is used to being on the fringes, of enjoying the feeling of having a crush, but never actually doing anything about it. When her twin sister Cassie falls hard for her first girlfriend Mina, Molly is unexpectedly pulled into a scheme to get her her first boyfriend. While the novel focuses on Molly’s love life (or lack thereof), I think the most important relationship in the novel is Molly’s bond with her sister. When Cassie begins dating Mina, Molly feels her twin pulling away and moving on without her. Molly has a lot of insecurities that most often manifest themselves in her fear of rejection. It isn’t easy for Molly to overcome these insecurities and I think this struggle is what makes her really relatable. Some of her self-esteem issues stem from being fat and feeling judged by other people based solely on this, but I got the feeling that Molly’s thoughts of inadequacy had more to do with always having her sister to compare herself to, and Cassie has always been more outgoing and experienced than her twin. Molly is really honest about her feelings regarding her sister and her new relationship. Sometimes it’s the more petty feelings that get the better of her, but their bond is so important to each of them that despite all the bumps in the road, they find a way to forgive one another. I’m a little partial to nerdy love interests, so Reid’s character was one I took to very quickly. The rapport between Reid and Molly was really sweet. I think I started shipping them from their very first interaction. I also want to mention that I got a lot of Lara Jean vibes from Molly. They’re both hopeless romantics who start off never dreaming of vocalizing their feelings to their crushes.

Rating: 4/5


Title: The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms
Author: N.K. Jemisin
Series: Inheritance Trilogy, #1
Pages: 425
Publisher: Orbit
Release Date: October 1st 2010

      “Yeine Darr is an outcast from the barbarian north. But when her mother dies under mysterious circumstances, she is summoned to the majestic city of Sky. There, to her shock, Yeine is named an heiress to the king. But the throne of the Hundred Thousand Kingdoms is not easily won, and Yeine is thrust into a vicious power struggle with cousins she never knew she had. As she fights for her life, she draws ever closer to the secrets of her mother’s death and her family’s bloody history.
       With the fate of the world hanging in the balance, Yeine will learn how perilous it can be when love and hate – and gods and mortals – are bound inseparably together.

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“Hunched around the pike and clutching its shaft, the man’s body shivered even harder than before. Belatedly I realized that some other force besides his cry shook him, as his chest began to glow red-hot around the pike’s tip. Smoke rose from his sleeves, his collar, his mouth and nose. His eyes were the worst of it, because he was aware. He knew what was happening to him, knew it and despaired, and that, too, was part of his suffering.”

If I had to describe N. K. Jemisin’s The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms in one word it would be epic. Yeine is a character that I was immediately drawn to. She comes from a matriarchal society (which I really wanted to know more about) and is pulled into this game of musical heirs by her grandfather. Dekarta Arameri disowned his daughter the moment she chose to marry a Darre and Yeine is a constant reminder of this betrayal. Either Yeine or one of her cousins, Scimina and Relad, will inherit the throne and death surely awaits those who aren’t successful. Scimina is ferocious, she has no qualms about doing whatever it takes to be Dekarta’s successor and neither her brother nor her newly arrived cousin will stand in her way. We don’t learn much about Relad, but he isn’t above making deals under the table to insure his survival. Just as important as the human players in this story are the mercurial gods who once ruled the world with astounding power, but who have now been imprisoned by one of their own. Caged in human form by day and forced to obey the whims of the ruling Arameri family, the Enefadeh can be either friend or foe to Yeine, but they are also keeping close a secret that will shake the very foundation of Yeine’s world. Among these is the dangerous, yet intriguing Nahadoth, who Yeine cannot help but be drawn to. The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms masterfully weaves issues of colonialism, racism, and political intrigue into a fantasy setting that excites the imagination with every page turned.

Rating: 4/5


Alex, Approximately by Jenn Bennett

Title: Alex, Approximately
Author: Jenn Bennett
Series: N/A
Pages: 391
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Release Date: April 4th 2017

      “Classic movie fan Bailey “Mink” Rydell has spent months crushing on a witty film geek she only knows online as Alex. Two coasts separate the teens until Bailey moves in with her dad, who lives in the same California surfing town as her online crush.
      Faced with doubts (what if he’s a creep in real life—or worse?), Bailey doesn’t tell Alex she’s moved to his hometown. Or that she’s landed a job at the local tourist-trap museum. Or that she’s being heckled daily by the irritatingly hot museum security guard, Porter Roth—a.k.a. her new archnemesis. But life is whole lot messier than the movies, especially when Bailey discovers that tricky fine line between hate, love, and whatever it is she’s starting to feel for Porter.
      And as the summer months go by, Bailey must choose whether to cling to a dreamy online fantasy in Alex or take a risk on an imperfect reality with Porter. The choice is both simpler and more complicated than she realizes, because Porter Roth is hiding a secret of his own: Porter is Alex…Approximately.”

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“My cheeks catch fire. I want to melt into a puddle and slide under the tacky orange carpet. I can’t look at him now, much less come up with a witty response. My mind has flipped on the autopilot switch and blanked out, and all I’m aware of is the sound of my own pulse throbbing in my ears.”

Jenn Bennett’s Alex, Approximately is the terrific summer read with a fun, beach setting and adorable first love story at its center. Bailey Rydell hates conflict. She’s more likely to retreat into herself than face any of her problems head on. The mounting tension between her mom and stepfather is almost too much to handle, but instead of sticking it out, she hops on a plane and travels across the country to move in with her father in California. This new town means new possibilities. It also means that Bailey might just get to meet her online crush, “Alex” with whom she shares a passion for old movies. Bailey doesn’t expect Porter Roth to ruin all her summer plans. Their chemistry is undeniable, but Bailey’s tendency to evade uncomfortable situations might derail their relationship.

I loved that even though this contemporary focuses on Bailey falling in love for the first time, it also gave the protagonist an important character arc that revolved around her alone. A traumatic past experience has caused Bailey to retreat into herself and as a result, she isn’t always good at forming new relationships. She’s used to compartmentalizing and this tendency to keep parts of her life separate makes it hard for her to open up to new people. Her online relationship with Alex that mostly revolves around their love of old Hollywood classics is only one facet to who she is and although I would have like to have seen more of this relationship, I think it was important to give Bailey’s real life relationship with Porter more of the spotlight. It is through this relationship that Bailey is forced to confront her propensity to bail when things get tough and though it’s a slow process, she does end up understanding that running away is the worst possible way to deal with her problems.

Porter was a really sweet love interest for Bailey. At first he does come across as a real jerk and though I don’t think this was really necessary, it thankfully doesn’t last long because it would have been really hard to root for this relationship if Porter had continually antagonized Bailey. I appreciated that Bailey wasn’t the only one hesitant about their relationship. Porter’s last serious relationship didn’t end well. These trust issues made him more relatable when he could have very easily been a cliché love interest. Several of his interpersonal relationships play vital roles in the story which gave him added depth.

The book does have some shortcomings. If you read the synopsis, the main plot twist isn’t meant to be concealed from the reader. I went into the novel knowing important information the characters didn’t. I thought the author would play with the idea of mistaken identity more, so was kind of disappointed that the identity of Bailey’s online friend really wasn’t much of a factor until the very end of the book. I also found it really hard to wrap my brain around Bailey’s mom’s complete absence. There is absolutely no contact between the two of them during the entire duration of the novel and although we’ve given a semi-convincing reason as to why at the end, I still found it hard to believe. I feel that this relationship was a missed opportunity. Part of the reason behind Bailey’s attitude toward conflict stems from what she’s learned from her mother, so it would have been interesting to actually explore this relationship rather than be told about it.

Bennett does a wonderful job of capturing those new, exciting feelings that come with your first serious relationship. I also appreciated that the author allows her characters to make mistakes and learn from these experiences. If you’re looking for a summer read that will have you swooning and agonizing over the ending Alex, Approximately is the one for you.



Certain Dark Things by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Title: Certain Dark Things
Author: Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Series: N/A
Pages: 323
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books
Release Date: October 25th 2016

      “Welcome to Mexico City… An Oasis In A Sea Of Vampires…
      Domingo, a lonely garbage-collecting street kid, is busy eking out a living when a jaded vampire on the run swoops into his life.
      Atl, the descendant of Aztec blood drinkers, must feast on the young to survive and Domingo looks especially tasty. Smart, beautiful, and dangerous, Atl needs to escape to South America, far from the rival narco-vampire clan pursuing her. Domingo is smitten.
      Her plan doesn’t include developing any real attachment to Domingo. Hell, the only living creature she loves is her trusty Doberman. Little by little, Atl finds herself warming up to the scrappy young man and his effervescent charm.
      And then there’s Ana, a cop who suddenly finds herself following a trail of corpses and winds up smack in the middle of vampire gang rivalries.
      Vampires, humans, cops, and gangsters collide in the dark streets of Mexico City. Do Atl and Domingo even stand a chance of making it out alive?”

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“The sand was red beneath her feet, and the moon had disappeared. She coughed, and this black, disgusting substance oozed from her mouth and she knelt upon the sand, a river of black bile and blood streaming out, and she tried to stop it but it would not stop. It. Just. Did not. Stop.

Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s Certain Dark Things is a gritty, complex vampire novel with rich world-building and an interesting cast. On the run from the vampires who killed her family, Atl is a fish out of water. Despite being a sort of refugee country for vampires, Mexico’s capital has been able to stave off the bloodthirsty clans. The streets of Mexico City aren’t exactly safe, but most people would choose gangs over vampires any day. Atl is desperate to find her way to South America before the rival vampire clan that is hunting her discovers where she’s been hiding in Mexico City. Her quest brings her into contact with a street kid named Domingo, who may be the only person willing to help her, but their unlikely alliance may get them both killed.

Moreno-Garcia’s world of vampires is vibrant and intriguing. It’s worth noting that in this world vampires cannot be made, but are born and brought up in a clan. Alt is a Tlāhuihpochtli, a vampire descended from the Aztecs. Her family has a rich history in north Mexico as do many vampire clans within the country, but the more recent arrival of Necros, vampires originating from Europe, has threatened their sovereignty. One thing that really stood out to me was that Moreno-Garcia’s take on vampires is much broader than what I’m usually used to seeing. Each subspecies of vampire has unique traits and are terrifying in their own ways. Necros most closely resemble the vampires we see in popular culture, equipped with sharp teeth and repulsed by sunlight. The Tlāhuihpochtli have bird-like characteristic from talons to the ability to fly. The Revenants are another subspecies we get a closer glimpse of and it is these vampires that I found the most unnerving. Instead of feeding on blood, a Revenant sucks the life energy from its victims, both human and vampire alike.

We get a few glimpses into Atl’s past, one that’s more carefree than anything else. She enjoyed all the luxuries of belonging to a powerful family without any of the responsibilities. Her sister Izel was much more levelheaded and equipped to deal with clashes between clans, but Atl is more impetuous and it is her lack of restraint that cost her someone close to her. I really wanted to know more about Atl’s clan and family. One of the distinct characteristics of the Tlāhuihpochtli vampires is the line of matriarchal succession. Atl’s mother had been grooming her older daughter Izel to take over and I think it would have been really interesting to see this through Atl’s eyes. Domingo felt like a very lost puppy for the most part. He’s immediately drawn to Atl and has a very romantic idea about what a vampire should be. I felt a bit iffy about any kind of romantic notion between the two because Domingo came off as really young and naïve at times while Atl couldn’t afford to be ignorant about the world.

Beside focusing on Atl and Domingo, the story also gives a glimpse at those hunting the young vampire. Nick is a particular nasty character, both impulsive and entitled. Atl got the better of him and now he’s determined to make her suffer. The Necros vampire is driven by both pride and a need to prove himself. It is his human victims that put Mexico City’s gangs on his and Atl’s trail. Detective Ana Aguirre transferred to Mexico City in hopes of getting away from the vampire infestation. All she cares about is keeping her daughter safe. When a local gang reaches out to her to help rid the city of the newly arrived vampires, she reluctantly agrees.

Though a little slow getting started, Moreno-Garcia’s novel is perfect for those looking for a well-rounded vampire novel. Certain Dark Things is a delight with creatures that will make your skin crawl and a perilous undertaking that will keep you on your toes.



Mini Reviews: Ms. Marvel, Vol. 1 & 2 + Trouble Makes a Comeback

MiniI finally picked up Ms. Marvel! This year I’ve picked up my very first graphic novels and I can’t believe I’ve waited this long. They’ve been perfect for whenever I’m really not feeling like picking up a traditional novel. I’ve been trying to decide what the best way to review graphic novels is. Should I dedicate a full review to each one or wait until after I’ve read a few? I figure utilizing the mini-review is the best way to do this for now. Below are my mini reviews for the first two volumes of Ms. Marvel and Stephanie Tromly’s Trouble Makes a Comeback. Covers below are linked to Goodreads.

Title: Ms. Marvel, Vol 1: No Normal
Author: G. Willow Wilson
Illustrator: Adrian Alphona
Series: Ms. Marvel, Vol. 1
Pages: 120
Publisher: Marvel
Release Date: October 30th 2014 

      “Kamala Khan is an ordinary girl from Jersey City — until she’s suddenly empowered with extraordinary gifts. But who truly is the new Ms. Marvel? Teenager? Muslim? Inhuman? Find out as she takes the Marvel Universe by storm! When Kamala discovers the dangers of her newfound powers, she unlocks a secret behind them, as well. Is Kamala ready to wield these immense new gifts? Or will the weight of the legacy before her be too much to bear? Kamala has no idea, either. But she’s comin’ for you, Jersey!

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“These powers mean something, something scary but good. And for the first time, I feel big enough for this, big enough to have greatness in me.

Story time: I inadvertently read the first two volumes of Ms. Marvel without knowing it. I checked out Ms. Marvel, Vol. 1: No Normal and didn’t notice that the edition I received also included the second volume, Ms. Marvel, Vol. 2: Generation Why. So when I went to pick up my hold for volume two, it turns out I had already read it.  So this mini-review covers the first two volumes though it reads like I’m only covering the first.

Ms. Marvel Vol. 1: No Normal is the kind of graphic novel I would have loved as a teen. Kamala Khan is such a relatable character. She tries to please her parents, but at the same time is also trying to forge her own identity, which isn’t easy when she isn’t sure who she is herself. She wants to fit in at school, but it can be hard when you’re Pakistani and Muslim and some of your classmates don’t understand and won’t take the time to understand your culture or religion. When Kamala first gets her powers, she believes she needs to be someone else, but discovers through a series of mishaps and some sage wisdom from an unlikely source that she is brave enough and her heart is big enough do take on the responsibility of being a hero. With a lovable sidekick and a cameo appearance from none other than Wolverine, Kamala will experience all the ups and downs of what it means to be a superhero as well as trying to find the right balance between this new life and her personal one.

Rating: 4/5


Title: Trouble Makes a Comeback
Author: Stephanie Tromly
Series: Trouble, #2
Pages: 336
Publisher: Kathy Dawson Books
Release Date: November 22nd 2016

      “Achieving high school “normal” wasn’t as hard as Zoe Webster expected, but she’s beginning to think Hollywood oversold how much fun it all is. Isn’t dating a jock supposed to be one long Instagram dream? Shouldn’t she enjoy gossiping 24/7 with her two BFFs? And isn’t this, the last year before the finish line that is Princeton, meant to be one of her best? If “normal” is the high school goal, why can’t Zoe get Philip Digby—decidedly abnormal, completely chaotic, possibly unbalanced, undoubtedly rude, and somehow…entirely magnetic—out of her mind?
      However normal Zoe’s life finally is, it’s about to get blown up (metaphorically. This time. She hopes, anyway.*) when Digby shows up on her doorstep. Again. Needing her help to find his kidnapped sister. Still. Full of over-the-top schemes and ready to send Zoe’s life into a higher gear. Again.
      It’s time for Zoe Webster to choose between staying in the normal lane, or taking a major detour with Digby (and finally figuring out what that stolen kiss actually meant to him).”

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      “Do you think it’s bad I’m disappointed no one’s turned up to murder us?

Stephanie Tromly’s Trouble Is a Friend of Mine is one of the most charming and funny debuts I’ve read. Zoe Webster and Philip Digby made quite the team as he managed to find trouble around every corner and she found herself going along with his schemes despite her better judgement. In this sequel, Trouble Makes a Comeback, Digby finally returns after a five-month absence. Since Digby left, Zoe has settled into a more normal life. She has new friends, a new boyfriend, and hardly ever thinks about her adventures with Digby. But once he’s back in her life, Zoe finds it hard to juggle these two very different parts of her life. After finishing the first book, I really hoped that we would get a sequel because I, like Digby, desperately wanted to know what really happened to his sister after she was kidnapped years ago. While we finally get some answers to this mystery, it did feel like there was no proper climax to the story and in this way, I’d say this sequel does fall into the sophomore slump trap. One of my favorite parts about Trouble Is a Friend of Mine is the undeniable chemistry and banter between the two lead characters. In this second book, their rapport didn’t feel quite as sharp and while I enjoyed seeing how their relationship had evolved, I kind of wish this part of the story could have been wrapped up earlier, so we could focus more on the mystery of Digby’s sister. Still, Trouble Makes a Comeback was a lot of fun and I look forward to reading the conclusion.

Rating: 3/5