Review Quickies #1

Sometimes I read small books or graphic novels that might not warrant a full review. I’ll post about these books periodically in Review Quickies, starting with a few graphic novels I read while moving this past week.


Super Chill Adam Ellis

Super Chill: A Year of Living Anxiously by Adam Ellis
Graphic Novel | Humor
Published by Andrews McMeel Publishing
Released October 23rd, 2018
Goodreads | Amazon
Rating: 5_Star_Rating_System_2_and_a_half_stars

I won this short graphic novel in a contest hosted by Andrews McMeel Publishing along with several others. I’ve been following Adam Ellis, a former Buzzfeed contributor, for a while on Instagram, so I assumed that I would enjoy this. Unfortunately, though, I was mainly just bored while reading this. There were one or two short comics in here that I could identify with, but as for the majority of them, I’ve actually already forgotten what the comics were about. I do love his art style, however, so an extra star for that. Overall though, it really missed the mark for me.


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Total Jazz by Blutch
Non-Fiction | Graphic Novel | Jazz
Published by Fantagraphics
Released February 14th, 2018
Goodreads | Amazon
Rating: 5_Star_Rating_System_0_and_half_star

I can’t remember the last time I rated something less than one star, but this short graphic novel 100% deserves it. When I came across this title on Hoopla I got excited because I adore jazz and was fascinated by a graphic novel about famous jazz musicians. What I got, however, was a racist, nonsensical jumble of bad art and few words.

What do I mean by racist? The book starts off with some Native American caricatures, drawn by a Frenchman:

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These caricatures serve no purpose and I was confused about why the author/artist would even include this. Once he started talking about jazz, things didn’t get much better. I was almost angry to have wasted my time on this book.

Even if you’re a jazz fan, do yourself a favor and skip this.


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Waves by Ingrid Chabbert
Illustrated by Carole Maurel
Nonfiction | Memoir | Graphic Novel | LGBT
Published by Archaia
Released May 14th, 2019
Originally published in France, 2017
Goodreads | Amazon
Rating: 5_Star_Rating_System_5_stars

We’re finally getting to the good stuff! This graphic novel was poetic, heartbreaking, and beautiful. The story is based on author Ingrid Chabbert’s own experience and follows a young woman and her wife as they try to conceive. It’s a difficult pregnancy, however, and they have to face a loss neither of them could prepare for. While the story is simple, it’s immensely powerful. Carole Maurel’s beautiful artwork adds a lot to the story as well:

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I can’t recommend this graphic novel enough. I was able to find it for free on Hoopla, but regardless of how you have to get your hands on it, be sure to read it!


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A Fire Story by Brian Fies
Nonfiction | Memoir | Graphic Novel
Published by Harry N. Abrams
Released March 5th, 2019
Goodreads | Amazon
Rating: 5_Star_Rating_System_5_stars

To end this post, we have another five-star read. As you can probably tell, I was on a bit of a non-fiction graphic novel kick the week before I moved (keep an eye out for my last non-fiction graphic novel review – They Called Us Enemy by George Takei, which is getting its own post).

A Fire Story caught my eye because it was something that I could relate to, as my family’s house burned down in February 2006. It was a surreal experience to lose everything you and your family had ever owned, but thankfully everyone was okay.

Brian Fies’ own experience with losing his house involved the massive California wildfires of last year when his whole neighborhood was quickly consumed by flames. The emotions he experienced felt so real to me and reminded me of everything my family went through when our own house burned down. With wildfires becoming the new normal in California (as well as in other parts of the world), now’s a good time to give this graphic novel a read.



I really enjoyed reading all of these non-fiction graphic novels, although I do wish I could take back the fifteen minutes I spent on Total Jazz. If you have any recommendations for other great non-fiction graphic novels, please let me know in the comments!!




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The Emperor’s Railroad by Guy Haley – A Review

The Emperor's Railroad - Guy Haley

The Emperor’s Railroad (Dreaming Cities #1) by Guy Haley
Post-Apocalyptic | Fantasy
Published by St. Martin’s Press
Released April 19, 2016
Goodreads | Amazon
Rating: 5_Star_Rating_System_4_stars

My boyfriend often gets bored when we’re at the library. He’s not really a reader, so while I’m spending an exorbitant amount of time walking between the shelves, piling up books until I reach my maximum checkout limit, he gets a bit antsy. Last time we went together, he decided to help me pick out some short books to read because I’m way behind on my Goodreads challenge.

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Author Guy Haley

Fortunately for me, he came back with The Emperor’s Railroad, a book I had never heard of but wanted to read as soon as I saw the first paragraph of the synopsis on the back cover:

“Global war devastated the environment, a zombie-like plague wiped out much of humanity, and civilization as we once understood it came to a standstill. But that was a thousand years ago, and the world is now a very different place.”

That is everything I need in a book. Post-apocalyptic fiction has long been my favorite genre, so I started reading it that same night.

This book is very short – just 176 pages – and I was able to finish it in a single day. I enjoyed the setting right away. Most post-apocalyptic fiction is mixed with elements of science, such as nuclear war, bioengineered viruses, EMP attacks, death from the cosmos, that sort of thing. In this book, however, author Guy Haley has written a post-apocalyptic fantasy book, complete with knights and talking dragons.

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I can’t recall ever reading a book that featured both zombies and dragons, so that was an aspect of the book that I really loved.

The story (at least in book one of the series) is told from the point-of-view of a twelve-year-old boy named Abney. He and his mother meet up with a Knight named Quinn on the road, and he agrees to help them travel the dangerous roads to a village in the north where they have a relative.

The first twenty or so pages, the way the story was told annoyed me a little, but I got used to it. Abney’s voice is undeniably young and imperfect, especially since there’s not much education left in this world. Abney grew on me a lot though, and by the end, I was glad that the story was told from his perspective.

The most fascinating character in the book is definitely Quinn. He’s a Knight, appointed by Angels, although he chooses not to wear his badge showing which city he is from. Quinn is quiet and mysterious, and by the end of The Emperor’s Railroad, I found myself both intrigued and a little confused. In a good way, though – I’ve already reserved the second book in this duology from the library.

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As this is a fantasy story, there’s some world-building, but I’m still a little unsure of the specifics of it. We learn quite a bit in The Emperor’s Railroad, but I hope it’s heavily expanded upon in book two. There were several times in the book where I wasn’t sure if the characters were referring to something literal or figurative; for example, the Angels that are frequently discussed are never shown in this book, and I feel there’s an equal chance that they’re either actual Angels or that they’re just people posing as angelic beings. I also found myself wanting to learn more about the politics of this world and the hierarchy of the rulers.

There are very few authors who can pull off something like combining zombies with dragons in a post-apocalyptic world, but Guy Haley definitely succeeded.

I’m thrilled to have discovered this duology via my bored boyfriend randomly pulling books from our library’s shelves. I can’t wait to read book two, The Ghoul King. If you enjoy genre-bending fantasy stories with mysterious characters and good suspense, do yourself a favor and pick this series up.


Have you read Guy Haley’s Dreaming Cities duology? If so, let me know what you thought!




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Elevation by Stephen King – A Review

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Elevation by Stephen King
Fiction
Published by Scribner
Released October 30, 2018
Goodreads | Amazon
Rating: 5_Star_Rating_System_1_star

First of all, Elevation won the 2018 Goodreads Choice Awards in the horror category, and I have no idea how. This is most definitely not a horror book.

Second, this book is godawful.

I grew up reading Stephen King’s books, as my parents had plenty of his novels on our living room bookshelf for me to choose from. As I got older, King’s earlier novels, such as The Shining, Tommyknockers, Pet Semetaryand others became easy favorites for me.

King’s post-apocalyptic novel, The Standis one of my favorite books of all time.

Suffice it to say, I’m a Stephen King fan. Usually.

Elevation is a very short book, and I finished it in a single day. The hardcover edition has just 146 pages. Its shortness is the only reason I finished reading it.

This novel has four characters: Scott Carey, a single, middle-aged web-developer; Dr. Bob Ellis, Scott’s friend, and a retired physician; and a lesbian couple new to town who own a vegetarian restaurant, Deirdre McComb and Missy Donaldson.

Scott has a mysterious infliction. He’s losing weight at a rate of a couple of pounds each day, but he doesn’t get any thinner. Also, he weighs the same on a scale with and without his clothes on. Seeing as this is a little bit strange, he seeks out the advice of Dr. Bob, although Scott also decides not to go to an actual hospital.

While Scott and Dr. Bob are watching the numbers on Scott’s scale dwindle away to nothing, Scott becomes obsessed with befriending his lesbian neighbors, who don’t want anything to do with him.

That’s the whole book. The end.

Literally, that’s it. It’s a very shallow novel.

I suppose the theme of the novel is getting along with people who have different lifestyles from you. Maybe? Most of the plot revolves around Scott trying to befriend and stick up for the lesbian couple while the rest of the townspeople shun them. Which is all well and good – it’s a great message in theory.

Then again, I didn’t enjoy the fact that the couple needed the white, middle-aged man to help them to succeed. Scott was the predictable and unwelcome hero of the story.

The characters were stereotypes, the story was bland, the plot was light, and the ending was ridiculous.

I will not be rereading this novel.


Have you read Elevation? What were your thoughts? Let me know in the comments.




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10 Short Books to Help You Get to Your Reading Goal

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If you’re trying to meet your yearly Goodreads or reading goal during the final week of 2018, no worries: there are plenty of short books, novellas, and graphic novels that you can finish in under a day! Here are ten of my favorites.


The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway

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128 pages

I read this entire book in less than three hours. It’s short, wonderful, and an easy read. The story is simple, as it follows a fisherman out on the ocean on a quest to catch a great fish. Its simplicity doesn’t make it less enjoyable – in fact, that simplicity makes the novel worth reading. The Old Man and the Sea is a great place to start if you’re new to reading Hemingway. If you want to know more, here’s my full review.

Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | Thrift Books


A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

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112 Pages

What could be more perfect to read during the holidays than this classic? This is one of those books that you can definitely finish in one sitting. If you don’t know what the story is about, it follows Ebenezer Scrooge, a greedy old man who values money more than anything else in the world. Things change when he’s visited by the ghosts of Christmases past, present, and future. Plus, if you would rather listen to it, there are plenty of audiobook performances, including readings by Neil Gaiman and Tim Curry.

Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | Thriftbooks


Marvel 1602 by Neil Gaiman

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248 Pages

This comic book is a unique take on the Marvel universe that you’re used to. Written by the incredible Neil Gaiman, this story takes place 400 years in the past and reimagines favorite characters such as Doctor Strange, the X-Men, Daredevil, and more. I also love the art in this comic book, which is done by Andy Kubert. There are other books in this series, but this is the first and collects issues 1-8.

Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | ThriftBooks


Black Bolt, Vol 1: Hard Time and Vol 2: Home Free by Saladin Ahmed

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272 Pages

For another comic book option, these two volumes by Saladin Ahmed are wonderful, plus you get to look at the colorful, trippy art of the best modern comic book artist, Christian Ward. I did a review of this series a while back, so check that out for a full review. This series follows Black Bolt as he tries to escape from an inescapable prison.

Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | ThriftBooks


Fantastic Mr. Fox by Roald Dahl

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96 Pages

Honestly, any of Roald Dahl’s books would work for this, but Fantastic Mr. Fox is my favorite. It’s so short that you can finish it in a couple of hours, and it’s such an adorably fun story. Mr. Fox, along with a few other underground friends, works to outsmart a few nasty farmers so that he can feed his friends and family.

Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | ThriftBooks


Binti by Nnedi Okorafor

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96 Pages

This is one that I’ll probably read myself during this last week. Binti is the first book in a series of fantasy novellas by acclaimed author Nnedi Okorafor. Binti is the first of her people to be accepted into a renowned galactic university, and the journey is a difficult one. She leaves behind her family and enters a world of warfare.

Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | Thriftbooks


Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur

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204 Pages

Poetry is a great way to up your count of finished books, and it’s hard to think of a poetry collection better than Rupi Kaur’s milk and honey. There’s also an audiobook version narrated by the writer herself, and she puts so much passion into her words that it’s hard not to get sucked in completely.

Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million


The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein

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64 Pages

Shel Silverstein was one of my favorite writers as a child, and I read and reread his books constantly. The Giving Tree is undoubtedly one of his best, and the lesson taught in the book is one that everyone should learn. If you never read this book as a child or if it’s been too long and you’ve forgotten, it’s never too late to relearn.

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Coraline by Neil Gaiman

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162 Pages

Neil Gaiman’s Coraline is much beloved for a reason. It’s a great story as well as being fantastical and ridiculous all at the same time. Coraline goes exploring in her family’s new home, and discovers a door that opens onto a parallel universe where she’s in a house just like her own, only things are… quite different.

Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | Thriftbooks


Speak: The Graphic Novel by Laurie Halse Anderson

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374 Pages

Don’t be scared off by the page count on this one. First of all, it’s a graphic novel, so it takes only a fraction of the time to get through the story. Second, it’s 100% worth reading. This is the graphic novel adaptation of Anderson’s famous novel Speak, and Emily Carroll does an amazing job with the illustrations. The story follows Melinda, a high school student who is raped and struggles with it during her freshman year of high school. It is a deeply upsetting book, but one that is all the more important because of it. If you want to know more I did a full review a couple months ago.

Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | Thriftbooks


What books are you reading to complete your reading challenge? Let me know in the comments.