While I’m not always the best at knowing about new books and their release dates, I am blessed to be surrounded by people and – in some cases – things (*waves at Amazon algorithm), that know me well enough to give me a gentle nudge in the right direction. Whether it be a friend making reccomendations, a knowledgeable staff member at my local shop, or some strange Goodreads based rabbit hole I’ve fallen into, there are a lot of great ways to hear about what’s new in the world of comic books.
Thanks to my many resources, I’ve managed to make a very nice discovery. In the interest of trying to include myself in that grand network of book sharing, I wanted to use my post this month to let you know about one of my latest finds that is truly enjoyable.
Bloom – written by Kevin Panetta, Art by
Bloom has everything I love in a book – romance, emotional growth, and baking. And yes, you read that right – baking!
The story doesn’t really break that much new ground. After graduating from high school, Ari is itching to leave his home town to join his friends in the city and seek success making music. Ari doesn’t get too far as his father asks that he keep working in the charming yet struggling family bakery until a suitable replacement can be found. In walks the enthusiastic Hector, who not only reminds Ari of why he used to love baking, but also challenges him to think about what it is he truly wants.
What follows is a very solid coming of age story that is both sweet and satisfying.
So, what makes this book so good?
Maturity is hard and for most of us, it doesn’t come overnight. Ari has a lot of growing up to do, and that journey feels very natural in this book. He goes from being passionate and relatable in one scene to stubborn and resentful in the next. Kevin Panetta writes Ari in a way that never feels forced. Instead, it feels natural as Ari struggles to choose his next steps. Hector, on the other hand, is older and has learned from his experiences. He sticks up for himself and encourages Ari to work harder. The chemistry between these two characters is very real and while I was reading, I couldn’t help but root for them both.
Bonus – hot baking action
I’m a sucker for a book that focuses on food, especially when food is used to connect family and community. In this book, it’s the act of baking that provides the space and spark that bring Ari and Hector together. There’s meaning in the sharing of recipes and experiences. This book illustrates that beautifully.
As I mentioned before, there isn’t a lot in this book that is groundbreaking or new, but it doesn’t really matter. There are books that are warm, comfortable, and enjoyable even if you know where the plot is going the entire time. You are still taken along with the story and have a great journey along the way. Bloom is that kind of book. So if you’re looking for something undeniably tender and warm, this book is made for you.
Before I dive into this topic, I just need to ask – who’s excited for LadiesCon 2018? It’s just a week and a half away and we are so excited for the show we’ve put together for you this year. Besides the incredible guests and talented vendors, I’m particularly excited for the panel line up that we have this year. We’ve got some fascinating people talking about a wide variety of topics at the intersections of feminism, body positivity, and fandom, and I just hope I get a chance to hear some of them! We also still have a few tickets for our early access breakfast left! While the con itself is free, we sell these tickets as an opportunity for those who can afford it to help KEEP it free for those who can’t, and the benefits are great – a chance to meet our guests with only a few other folks in the room, first crack at all of the vendors, a bag full of awesome gifts, and breakfast!
While many of us are currently finding ourselves staring Fall in the face as we start school, enjoy our last beach day, or prepare for Ladies Con, it’s hard to remember that summer is technically not over yet. Well, at least it isn’t over officially until September 23rd, the first day of Fall. So until that time, there might be those of you out there holding onto summer with everything they have – and I’m here to help you with that. I have three get reading suggestions that will not only help you remember how the warm summer sun feels, but also how it can make you feel like no other season can.
This month, we’re talking about tropes! What is a trope? What makes them so effective that they keep popping up again and again? Which tropes do we love? Which ones do we actively seek out?
We’ll be adding a few links to examples of our favorite tropes soon.
Check out previous episodes and subscribe to the podcast on our podcast page.
The latest episode of the Ladies of Comicazi Podcast is here! This month, we discuss Creepy Teen Books, a staple of our childhood reading. Join us as we talk about some of our favorites, what made the genre so popular, and why it seems to have fallen out of favor.
Want to learn more? Check out some of the books and authors we talked about:
The Dollhouse Murders – Elise’s childhood favorite
I Know What You Did Last Summer – a classic of the genre by Lois Duncan and the basis for the movie
Goosebumps and Fear Street author R.L. Stine
The Encyclopedia Brown series
By all accounts, 2017 has been a difficult year, one plagued by natural disasters, tragedy, and a polarizing political climate. Yet, in spite of it all, or in some cases even because of it, we’ve been privy to some incredible stories this year – books that challenge, enlighten, inform and inspire. Here are a few of my favorites – some I’ve reviewed here before, some I haven’t. All of them are written by women.
I don’t know about the rest of the world, but here in Massachusetts the weather has finally embraced full-on summer, the kind with clear blue skies, warm nights, and the occasional thunder-storm to keep things exciting. It’s a great time to hit the beach or a park and catch up on some reading, so here are some suggestions to get you started. Continue reading
LadiesCon 2016 may be over, but we’re still thinking about what made it such a great time. One of the things that I was really excited about was the opportunity to speak directly to so many creators and artists about their original works. One of the creators I was most excited about was Mildred Louis, who writes and draws a comic called Agents of the Realm. I hadn’t heard of her work before the con, but when she contacted us about having a table, I looked at her work and knew I’d be paying her a visit. I had the supreme good fortune (thanks to a huge assist from Smalerie) of snagging the last copy of her book, which collects the first volume of an ambitious work which, luckily for me, continues online.
The premise is a twist on the classic magical girl genre of manga (see Crystal Cadets for a more standard version): five young women discover that they are the protectors of our world, which is being threatened by strange beasts entering our realm from a sister dimension. In the classic magical girl style, Norah, Adele, Kendall, Paige, and Jordan have special brooches that transform them into uniform-wearing warriors, each with her own weapon, powers, and attendant element. Through the magic of the brooches, they find each other and begin to learn about their powers, the other realm, and why and how they were chosen to protect the world.
The twist comes in from the fact that in standard magical girl stories, there is an emphasis on girl – the protagonists are typically tweens or young teenagers, and part of the transformation is that they become an adult version of themselves. They’re all Mary Marvel, if her posse were other girls instead of two boys and talking tiger. The Agents are all adults already – young adults, to be fair, but in college and of legal age. This immediately has different implications about how they make the choice to accept their roles and for how Louis is able to explore the relationships between the characters and the problems that they face. When you’re watching or reading Sailor Moon, you know that while Sailor Moon is presented as an adult, Usagi Tsukino is really still a kid, and her concerns when she isn’t saving the planet are appropriately childish. The Agents, on the other hand, are young adults, and they have concerns that an adult can relate to, in addition to fighting off giant spirit birds.
Another thing that makes the series great is the level of representation of both people of color and of LBGTQ folks. Most of the characters, including 4 of the 5 Agents, are not white. They also have a wide range of body types – and they keep them after they transform. They do not become “idealized” versions of themselves. This is a powerful message delivered with subtlety – that they are already good enough, already powerful just as they are. They are also beautiful, and feminine, without needing to all fit into the white, western ideal shape.
The orientations of the various characters are handled with that same grace – we’re shown characters who have loving relationships of all types, completely integrated into the story. It doesn’t feel like anything that’s being called attention to, a lesson we’re meant to learn – these are just people, and people have many different approaches to sex and love and romance.
Norah, Adele, Kendall, Paige, and Jordan feel like real people – they have strengths, but also flaws – and not just “oh, she’s such a klutz.” It’s apparent even in the first issue that Norah struggles with social anxiety. Paige is driven and ambitious to the point of being rude at times. Kendall is a peacemaker. It’s refreshing to see the trope of the “chosen ones” applied to characters who feel like more than a cardboard cutout.
Finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the art. As you can see from the pictures here, it’s gorgeous and dynamic. There’s a clear progression as Louis’ style evolves – I think that she continually improves her panel layout and visual storytelling – but the technical excellence is on display from the beginning.
Do you read Agents of the Realm? Tell me what you think in the comments!
Recommended age: Teen to adult. The content is far from racy, but the website does have a trigger warning that suggests that not all of it might be suitable for younger readers.
You might like it if: You like realistic ladies kicking fantastical butt.
Bonus features: If you’re local, Mildred Louis will be at MICE! So if you missed getting a physical book at LadiesCon, you might have another shot.
As someone who reads a lot, and has a pretty widespread taste in books, folks frequently ask me for book recommendations. Some friends I give the full list, knowing that they are also literary adventurers who are equally happy reading Harry Potter, The Corrections, or a book about oysters. If I know what they like, I might give them a tailored list of mysteries or urban fantasy or great literary fiction. However, I have a special, curated list as well – the books I think any right-minded, well-read person would like. These are the stories that transcend genre and individual tastes. They’re practically a litmus test for my friendship – if you don’t like these stories, we’ve just got such radically different worldviews that I don’t see how we could possibly get along. (Okay, that might be going a little far. And yet…) As a bonus, in addtion to being great reads, all three of these books are written by women, and all three have girls or women as protagonists. So for this year’s Summer Reading post, I present the three lady-centric books I think anyone (and everyone) will enjoy.