Library Haul #3: Towering TBR

Ok, so here’s the thing. Despite already having three YA & middle grade novels in the 300-500 page range on my TBR for the week, I just couldn’t help myself when I visited the library again twice this past week. What could a few graphic novels hurt? But of course, I brought home more than that. You know how it goes. Needless to say, most of these are just adding to my TBR… and underscoring why I need to (try to) stay away from the library for a while.

Anyway, here’s the latest haul:

Have you read any of these? What did you think of them?

I’ll share my thoughts below, along with their book jacket summaries.

Strange Academy: First Class (#1), by Skottie Young (author), Humberto Ramos (artist), and Edgar Delgado (color artist) (2022)

  • Summary: “The world has mysteriously changed in such an alarming way that Doctor Strange has finally done what he has avoided for decades and established an academy for the mystic arts! Young people from around the world with an aptitude for magic are brought together in New Orleans to study under Stephen Strange, Brother Voodoo, the Ancient One, the Scarlet Witch, Magik, Daimon Hellstrom and all your favorite Marvel mages. From mindful Mindless Ones to pan-dimensional games of tag, the Strange Academy is definitely living up to its name. But the students’ first field trip lights a fuse that is going to blow up in a big way! School’s in session – and it’s going to be spellbinding!”
  • Reaction: So much fun! With so many characters and worlds colliding, this one could’ve easily felt disjointed or confusing, especially to someone like me who’s not all that well versed in the Marvel Universe. But it’s really well done and easy to follow. The illustrations are gorgeously done – full of detail and vivid color and plenty of mood – and I love the worlds being introduced on each page. My only nitpick would be the two or three typos/editing errors, but nothing big. Overall, this is a fun read, and I can’t wait for the next installment! Highly recommend.

Jane, the Fox & Me, by Fanny Britt (author), Isabelle Arsenault (illustrator), Christelle Morelli and Susan Ouriou (translators) (2012)

  • Summary: “Hélène has been inexplicably ostracized by the girls who were once her friends. Her school life is full of whispers and lies – Hélène weighs 216; she smells like BO. Her loving mother is too tired to be any help. Fortunately, Hélène has one consolation, Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre. Hélène identifies strongly with Jane’s tribulations, and when she is lost in the pages of this wonderful book, she is able to ignore her tormentors. But when Hélène is humiliated on a class trip in front of her entire grade, she needs more than a fictional character to see herself as a person deserving of laughter and friendship…. This emotionally honest and visually stunning graphic novel reveals the casual brutality of which children are capable, but also assures readers that redemption can be found through connecting with another, whether the other is a friend, a fictional character or even, amazingly, a fox.”
  • Reaction: Oh my goodness, where to begin?! This is a truly lovely story, so true to middle-grade woes and the quest to find one’s identity that it felt like stepping back into my own childhood for a bit. I loved seeing Jane Eyre, one of my favorites from school, through Hélène’s eyes. (“Everyone has a strategy, even Jane Eyre.” ) The art style is absolute perfection, like a pencil drawing-filled diary – raw, expressive, beautifully detailed and, for the reader, nostalgic. My only criticism, and it’s a minor one, is that the ending felt a bit rushed – at least to someone who took years to learn the lesson Hélène gathers within the final few pages. But I really loved this one. Highly recommend.

Mae, by Gene Ha (art and story) (2015)

  • Summary: “When her long lost sister returns, Mae Fortell gets pulled into her world of wonders and peril. After her sister disappeared without a trace 8 years ago, Mae was left to care for her ailing father. She went to school and continued on with life. On the fateful day that Abbie returns, she reveals fantastic tales filled with adventure. These stories are hard to believe – until the monsters show up…”
  • Reaction: Quite possibly the fastest I’ve ever DNF’d a book. The dialogue feels stilted, and the characters are basically cardboard. Throw in a bit of name-calling with a slur, and I’m done. Would not recommend.

Harley Quinn, by Mariko Tamaki (author) and Steve Pugh (artist) (2019)

  • Summary: “Outspoken, rebellious, and eccentric fifteen-year-old Harleen Quinzel has five dollars to her name when she’s sent to live in Gotham City. Harleen has battled a lot of hard situations as a kid, but her fortune turns when Gotham’s finest drag queen, Mama, takes her in. And at first it seems like Harleen has finally found a place to grow into her most “true true,” with new best friend Ivy at Gotham High. But then Harley’s fortune takes another turn when Mama’s drag cabaret becomes the next victim in the wave of gentrification that’s taking over the neighborhood. Now Harleen is mad. In turning her anger into action, she is faced with two choices: join Ivy, who’s campaigning to make the neighborhood a better place to live, or join The Joker, who plans to take down Gotham one corporation at a time. From Eisner Award and Caldecott Honor-winning author Mariko Tamaki (This One Summer) and Eisner Award-nominated artist Steve Pugh (The Flintstones) comes a coming-of-age story about choices, consequences, and how a weird kid from Gotham goes about defining her world for herself.”
  • Reaction: Added to my TBR.

Beethoven’s Tenth (Frank Ryan Mystery #1), by Brian Harvey

  • Summary: “Piano tuner Frank Ryan is paid in kind by an aging music teacher with an old manuscript that turns out to be Beethoven’s Tenth Symphony. Launched into a world of intrigue and violence, Ryan, an unlikely sleuth, realizes he must use his wits to conquer his enemies and solve the mystery of the manuscript. Beethoven’s Tenth is the first in a series featuring accidental sleuth Frank Ryan.”
  • Reaction: Added to my TBR.

The Girl Who Speaks Bear, by Sophie Anderson (2019)

  • Summary: “Twelve-year-old Yanka has never felt at home in her small village. She was discovered in a bear cave as a baby, and the other children mock her for her unusual size and strength. Yanka is desperate to discover the truth about her past – and learn why mysterious forest creatures keep calling to her – but her protective foster mother won’t let her venture too far into the dangerous woods. When Yanka wakes up one morning to discover, to her horror, that her legs have transformed into bear legs, she knows she has no choice – she must leave her village before her neighbors shun her as a monster. So Yanka leaves home and enters the Snow Forest with her pet weasel, Mousetrap, in order to gather clues about her mysterious past. But the Snow Forest contains many dangers, including creatures from the fantastical stories Yanka believed were only legends. And just when Yanka draws close to discovering who she really is, she’s faced with a terrifying threat that could trap her in the forest … forever.”
  • Reaction: Added to my TBR.

The Thing About Jellyfish, by Ali Benjamin (2015)

  • Summary: “Some hearts beat only about 412 million times. Which might sound like a lot. But the truth is, it barely even gets you twelve years. Suzy Swanson has always known things that others don’t. She can explain the sleep patterns of ants. She knows there are 150 million jellyfish stings on the planet every year. She knows that the average middle school kid contains about 20 billion of Shakespeare’s atoms. But she can’t understand how Franny Jackson’s lifetime could be cut so short … before Suzy could make up for the worst thing she’d ever done to her friend. As Suzy retreats into a silent world of her imagination, she finds that the universe won’t allow her escape into her grief. Astonishing wonders are all around her … as are the love and hope she desperately needs to forgive herself. This achingly heartfelt debut explores the defining moment in each of our lives when we first realize that not all stories have happy endings … but that brand-new stories are waiting to bloom, sometimes right in our own backyards.”
  • Reaction: Added to my TBR.

Forging Silver into Stars, by Brigid Kemmerer (2022)

  • Summary: “When ancient magic tests a newfound love, a dark fate beckons… Magic has been banished in the land of Syhl Shallow for as long as best friends Jax and Callyn can remember. They once loved the stories of powerful magesmiths and mythical scravers who conjured fire or controlled ice, but now they’ve learned magic only leads to danger: magic is what killed Callyn’s parents, leaving her to raise her younger sister. Magic never helped Jax, whose leg was crushed in an accident his father has punished him for ever since. Magic won’t save either of them when the tax collector comes calling. Meanwhile, Jax and Callyn are astonished to learn a magesmith has returned to Syhl Shallow – and he’s married to their new queen. Now, the people of Syhl Shallow are expected to allow dangerous magic in their midst, and no one is happy about it. When a stranger rides into town offering Jax and Callyn silver in exchange for holding secret messages for an antimagic faction, the choice is obvious – even if it means they may be aiding a plot to destroy their new king. It’s a risk they’re willing to take. That is, until another visitor arrives in town: handsome Lord Tycho, the King’s Courier, the man tasked with discovering who’s conspiring against the throne. Suddenly, Jax and Callyn find themselves embroiled in a world of shifting alliances, dangerous flirtations, and ancient magic… where even the deepest loyalties will be tested.”
  • Reaction: Added to my TBR.

The Mirror Thief, by Martin Seay (2016)

  • Summary: “In sixteenth-century Venice, the city’s famed glassmakers are secretly perfecting one of the Old World’s most wondrous inventions: the mirror. An object of fearful fascination – did it reflect simple reality, or reveal something more profound? – the Venetian mirror was state-of-the-art technology, subject to industrial espionage by desirous sultans and royals throughout the world. And so the city’s ruthless rulers, the Council of Ten, have handed down an edict: for any of the mirror craftsmen to leave the island is a crime punishable by death. One man, however – a world-weary war hero with little to lose – has a scheme he thinks will allow him to outwit the ominous Ten… Meanwhile, in two other iterations of Venice – Venice Beach, California, in 1958, and the Venetian casino in Las Vegas in 2003 – two other schemers launch similarly dangerous plans to discover, and get away with, secrets… All three stories will weave together into a spellbinding tour de force that, in the end, returns readers to a stunning conclusion in the original Venice … and leaves them with the bedazzled sense of having read a truly original and thrilling work of art.”
  • Reaction: Added to my TBR.

Autumn in Venice: Ernest Hemingway and His Last Muse, by Andrea di Robilant (2018)

  • Summary: “The acclaimed author of A Venetian Affair now gives us the remarkable story of Ernest Hemingway’s love affair with both the city of Venice and the muse he found there – a vivacious eighteen-year-old who inspired the man thirty years her senior to complete his great final work. In the fall of 1948 Hemingway and his fourth wife traveled for the first time to Venice, which Hemingway called ‘absolutely god-damned wonderful.’ He was a year shy of his fiftieth birthday and hadn’t published a novel in nearly a decade. At a duck shoot in the lagoon he met and fell in love with Adriana Ivancich, a striking Venetian girl just out of finishing school. Andrea di Robilant – whose great-uncle moved in Hemingway’s revolving circle of bon vivants, aristocrats, and artists – re-creates with sparkling clarity this surprising, years-long relationship. Hemingway used Adriana as the model for Renata in Across the River and into the Trees, and continued to visit Venice to see her; when the Ivanciches traveled to Cuba, Adriana was there as he wrote The Old Man and the Sea. This illuminating story of writer and muse – which also examines the cost to a young woman of her association with a larger-than-life literary celebrity – is an intimate look at the fractured heart and changing art of Hemingway in his fifties.”
  • Reaction: Added to my TBR.

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