Review: Ghosts by Raina Telgemeier

Ghosts 1-- bookspoilsThis was the perfect heartfelt, quick, and light graphic novel to pick up after feeling emotionally exhausted by my first read of the year.

Catrina and her family are moving to the coast of Northern California because her little sister, Maya, is sick. Cat isn’t happy about leaving her friends for Bahía de la Luna, but Maya has cystic fibrosis and will benefit from the cool, salty air that blows in from the sea. As the girls explore their new home, a neighbor lets them in on a secret: There are ghosts in Bahía de la Luna. Maya is determined to meet one, but Cat wants nothing to do with them. As the time of year when ghosts reunite with their loved ones approaches, Cat must figure out how to put aside her fears for her sister’s sake – and her own.Ghosts 4-- bookspoilsFirst and foremost, I have to mention that my little sister is a huge fan of Raina Telgemeier’s work, particularly the graphic novel Sisters, so I can’t wait to share this one with her. The author excels once again at featuring that special bond created between sisters. Like, seeing Cat care and worry for her little sister Maya, who’s born with cystic fibrosis which affects her breathing and digestion.

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Secondly, the color palette is refreshingly vibrant in Ghosts. And so were the aspects of the author being willing to explore happiness as much as she was willing to explore pain, grief, and unhappiness.

Which then leads me to feature how utterly spellbinding and visually stunning the celebration scene was:

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Last but not least, this graphic novel made me feel excited to go and check out the Disney film Coco, also centered around Día de Muertos, as soon as possible.

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Review: The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

“I was raised among books, making invisible friends in pages that seemed cast from dust and whose smell I carry on my hands to this day. ”

Just as I was thinking to myself how implausibly good it feels not having DNF’ed a book in a long while, The Shadow of the Wind comes into my life.

I went into this pretty open-minded expecting a book about loving books and reading, instead I receive a pretentious piece of confusing fiction, trying to appear smarter than it really is. Plus, having it use one of my most hated writing techniques of telling with little to no showing. Oh, and if that wasn’t enough we then have the dialogue whose sole job in this book is to convey information. There’s not even one point where the author tried to humanize the characters by making them appear more complex and dynamic, as one would expect. Or achieving that feeling of creating “characters who seemed as real to me as my surroundings.” Instead both the dialogue and the action grew extremely stilted the more I read on.

Take for example this next passage that had me saying enough is enough:

“Bea, wait.”
I cursed myself and ran after her. I stopped her halfway down the corridor, grabbing her by the arm. She threw me a burning look.
“I’m sorry. But you’re wrong: it’s not your fault, it’s mine. I’m the one who isn’t as good as your brother. And if I’ve insulted you, it’s because I’m jealous of that idiot boyfriend of yours and because I’m angry to think that someone like you would follow him to El Ferrol. It might as well be the Congo.”
“Daniel . . .”
“You’re wrong about me, because we can be friends if you let me try, now that you know how worthless I am. And you’re wrong about Barcelona, too, because you may think you’ve seen everything, but I can guarantee that’s not true. If you’ll allow me, I can prove it to you.”
I saw a smile light up and a slow, silent tear fall down her cheek.
“You’d better be right,” she said. “Because if you’re not, I’ll tell my brother, and he’ll pull your head off like a stopper.”

No one talks like that in real life… Also, this passage shows just how utterly lazy the author is with his writing by making two characters that were supposed enemies (literally) one page ago “bond” by appearing in the same location. It’s pretty obvious that instead of creating a new multifaceted character, Zafón opted to reuse a character we already know, who has a boyfriend, mind you, and have the main character be suddenly infatuated…

Also, this next passage illustrates my point perfectly of the dialogue being between detective and suspect.

“Are you a collector?”
“Something like that.”
“Do you have other books by Carax?”
“I’ve had them at some point. Julián Carax is my specialty, Daniel. I travel the world in search of his books.”
“And what do you do with them if you don’t read them?”
The stranger made a stifled, desperate sound. It took me a while to realize that he was laughing.
“The only thing that should be done with them, Daniel,” he answered.
He pulled a box of matches out of his pocket. He took one and struck it. The flame showed his face for the first time. My blood froze. He had no nose, lips, or eyelids. His face was nothing but a mask of black scarred skin, consumed by fire. It was the same dead skin that Clara had touched.
“Burn them,” he whispered, his voice and his eyes poisoned by hate.”

Please, don’t write dialogue just to convey information to the reader. I want to read and feel emotions from the characters, not like I’m reading a transcript from a court case.

It’s been too long since I’ve last been this heated over my lack of interest with a book. And I least of all expected it to be The Shadow of the Wind, which has such beautiful quotes here on Goodreads.

“As I walked in the dark through the tunnels and tunnels of books, I could not help being overcome by a sense of sadness. I couldn’t help thinking that if I, by pure chance, had found a whole universe in a single unknown book, buried in that endless necropolis, tens of thousands more would remain unexplored, forgotten forever. I felt myself surrounded by millions of abandoned pages, by worlds and souls without an owner sinking in an ocean of darkness, while the world that throbbed outside the library seemed to be losing its memory, day after day, unknowingly, feeling all the wiser the more it forgot.”

And that’s exactly what rendered me the most dissatisfied. The fact that most of the well-known quotes are taken from the first 100 pages of the book left me feeling exasperated, so much so that I couldn’t come up with one reason to continue reading. I didn’t care at all for the cardboard characters with zero storyline, so I had to put The Shadow of the Wind down after just 115 pages. And frankly, I have no regrets.

I will say, though, that this book had magnificent moments at the start when I put in the effort to listen to instrumental music (like this playlist). It heightens the reading experience by a landslide. The book goes from an effort to read to feeling like you’re watching a movie, which is why I was eager to look into whether this had any adaptions in the works… But unfortunately the author “will not sell the rights to any studio” because “he says that the story was written in order to be a book and we don’t want to lose the magic in a movie.” Figures…

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Review: The Secret Loves of Geeks by Hope Nicholson

Starting out the last month of the year on the right foot with this follow-up to 2016 best-seller The Secret Loves of Geek Girls. It’s no secret by now that I absolutely adored said anthology when I picked it up last year. I even went back to reread my review recently and got to experience all those feelings of fun rush back in, like when I had first read them.

So I was more than ready to dive into this new world, where cartoonists and professional geeks tell their intimate, heartbreaking, and inspiring stories about love, sex and, dating in this comics and prose anthology.

But the one thing I came to notice were how few illustrated stories there were compared to The Secret Loves of Geek Girls. This follow-up paves the way for more essays and short stories to be included. That’s not to say that I enjoyed the written tales less, as my favorites below will testify. Still, I wish we would’ve gotten a couple more comics thrown in the mix.

On a brighter note, The Secret Loves of Geeks had me wrapped in the storyline from page one. Starting with Cecil Castellucci’s piece about finding love while camped out for six weeks (!) in line for The Phantom Menace, reminiscent of Rainbow Rowell’s Kindred Spirits.

“We were creating our own microsociety and it was all centered around this thing that we loved.”The Secret Loves of Geeks 1-- bookspoilsAnd then moving on to the next story by Saadia Muzaffar on online (Tinder) dating and doing things different this time. It had me enthralled from start to finish. I was entirely invested to see if the whole “get to know me in a way only I knew me,” without disclosing any Google-identifiable details, would work.The Secret Loves of Geeks 3-- bookspoils

I also came to notice how “The [isolating] feeling of otherness… of never quite fitting in, and of not knowing how to act, or how to be interacted with…” was ever present in this anthology, and I felt the core of it.

The last written piece I want to highlight was Hope Larson’s story: “I wanted to be seen, and yet remain unknown.” She had me eating out of the palm of her hand while recalling her meeting someone “who lights up the night and slows down time.”

Finally, I’d like to highlight some of my favorite illustrated pieces:

The Secret Loves of Geeks 6-- bookspoilsThe art style and colors are dreamy in the above.

Also, this panel from Bear With by Terry Blas:The Secret Loves of Geeks 4-- bookspoilsI wasn’t expecting to find a piece bringing me back to my days of loving Miranda, but I’m so here for this. Also, I cherish the tiny detailed shout-out to the iconic “What have you done today to make you feel proud.”

And last but not least, to quote from the introduction, Cara Ellison and Maddie Chaffer rage against the hypocrisy of controlling women’s sexual fantasies in “Women Love Jerks.”

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Overall, it was validating and so incredibly affirming to read through all the different stories presented in The Secret Loves of Geeks. I’m rooting for more anthologies like this to come out in the near future.

ARC kindly provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Publication Date: February 13th 2018

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Note: I’m an Amazon Affiliate. If you’re interested in buying The Secret Loves of Geeks, just click on the image below to go through my link. I’ll make a small commission!