Review: Himawari House

Himawari House is a graphic novel for young adults that focuses on foreign exchange students in Japan. The students are learning Japanese in order to work, go to university, and connect with their roots.

I have never felt some many feelings while reading a graphic novel. Anxiety when the students are taking their exams, joy, happiness. I even wept in the two-page life story of their Obaachan neighbor.

I also appreciated that the author wrote the student’s English with an accent. Students of a new language aren’t going to speak it perfectly, and writing the students with an accent made the characters feel real.

Thank you to Turn the Page Tours and First Second Books for including me on this tour and for the finished copy of this book!

Book Description: 

A young adult graphic novel about three foreign exchange students and the pleasures, and difficulties, of adjusting to living in Japan.

Living in a new country is no walk in the park―Nao, Hyejung, and Tina can all attest to that. The three of them became fast friends through living together in the Himawari House in Tokyo and attending the same Japanese cram school. Nao came to Japan to reconnect with her Japanese heritage, while Hyejung and Tina came to find freedom and their own paths. Though each of them has her own motivations and challanges, they all deal with language barriers, being a fish out of water, self discovery, love, and family.

Author Bio:

Harmony Becker was born in Cincinnati, Ohio. She is the illustrator of George Takei’s graphic memoir They Called Us Enemy. She currently lives in Mexico City.

Book Title: Himawari House

Author: Harmony Becker

Publisher: First Second

Release Date: November 9, 2021

Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary, Graphic Novel 

Goodreads link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/55780534-himawari-house 

Book Purchase link:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Himawari-House-Harmony-Becker/dp/125023557X 

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/himawari-house-harmony-becker/1137970897?ean=9781250235572 

Book Depository: https://www.bookdepository.com/Himawari-House-Harmony-Becker/9781250235572?ref=grid-view&qid=1636300348408&sr=1-1 

Indiebound: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781250235565 

Author Links:

https://www.harmonybecker.com/

https://www.instagram.com/hamini/?hl=en

Review: Esemtu Vol. 1

Do you know your patron god? Mine is Enki! Enki is the God of creation, crafts and water. (Yup, that sounds about right!)

“At times you may be withdrawn, either because you are day-dreaming, your favourite pass-time, or because you are working something out – asking for help or working in a team don’t come naturally to you.”

Find your Patron God at http://www.esemtu.com.

Esemtu Vol. 1 was a great read. Three university students in Vienna get tangled up in a murder mystery related to ancient Sumerian god statues.

This who done it around the murder of Ahmed, a refugee living in Vienna, is such an adventure and I felt like I learned a lot about Sumerian mythology.

I found the three main characters to be well rounded and the graphic novel a really enjoyable read that had me on the edge of my seat trying to figure out who murdered Ahmed and why.

The illustrations in this graphic novel are also lovely. I found myself slowing down as I read this so I could really appreciate the details in the panels.

I received a free copy of Esemtu Vol. 1 in exchange for an honest review.

Review: Candy Hearts

Candy Hearts, by Tommy Siegel had me laughing the whole way through. These quick, one panel cartoons are quick-witted and cut straight-to-the-point. 

I found Siegel’s use of the traditional Valentine’s Day candy as a mode to discuss relationships unique. I enjoyed the idea of each person with their inner monologue written on the outside.

Candy Hearts publishes on February 2, 2021 – just in time for Valentine’s Day!

Thank you to NetGalley and Andrews McMeel Publishing for the advanced review copy in exchange for my honest opinion.

Review: My Riot

⁠My Riot started out with a very scene that felt very poignant: rioting happening in the streets of what would otherwise be a quiet suburb.

I wasn’t sure where the rioting and the main character, Val, a shy, awkward high school student who finds solace in her ballet class, was going to go.

The graphic novels, set in the 90s (but feels very modern), tells the story of how Val grows and finds her voice through friends, ballet, family, and music.

I know, that sounds like a lot and some cliche, but it’s a fun read.

Val decides she wants to learn to play the guitar while she’s grounded. As she’s learning, she jams with her friend Kat over the phone, who’s learning to play the drums because they’ve decided they want to be in a band. And at their first show, they only know a few covers and are screechy and stumble over them. But they love it.

To the point where they keep rehearsing, practicing new songs, and start writing their own. Songs about women’s empowerment, about feminism, and about being a woman in the world.

I adored the illustrations and the subtle use of color in this graphic novel. Enough to give the illusion of movement and shadow while not being full color.

Thank you to @netgalley and @onipress for the review copy in exchange for my honest opinion

Review: Dramacon

I was supposed to go to Otakon this summer with my anime-loving niece. But with COVID putting the brakes on all plans, we had to cancel out trip. I’ve been to book conventions before, but never an anime convention…and Otakon is one of the top 10 largest in the US.

But, finding Dramacon felt like I at least was able to attend an anime convention between the pages. Dramacon followed Chriss, who is a vendor in Artist Alley with her independent manga over three years at the Yatta Anime Convention.

Chriss and her friends deal with toxic relationships, cheating, familial expectations, and following your dreams. This was an enjoyable read – and full of high school romance and drama.

I definitely loved Chriss and Matt’s dynamic. They definitely had some of the best lines. Like…

Chriss: “Ah, yes, tact.  Tell me you’ve at least heard of it.”

Matt: “In passing. A most foreign concept if you ask me.”

This omnibus collection has been released to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the publication of Dramacon Vol. 1.  Thank you to TokyoPop, author Svetlana Chmakova, and Netgalley for the review copy in exchange for my honest opinion.

Review: Ever After

A graphic novel that touches on mental health, friendship and zombies? I was definitely intrigued. Plus, Ever After by Olivia Vieweg has beautiful illustrations.

I will say, I feel like I was thrown into the middle of this story without much backstory. Vivi is in a mental hospital when we first meet her and there is a zombie apocalypse occurring. Vivi is sent to help at the city’s barricade – the haphazard fence that keeps the town of Weimar, Germany safe from the undead beyond their borders.

However, things go wrong and the undead attempt to cross the barricade and Vivi is saved by Eva’s quick thinking. Eva is hurt by one of the zombies but does not turn and In the middle of the night, she plans to leave the city and head to the next town over, which has figured out how to heal people who have been hurt from the undead. Vivi breaks out of the hospital and joins her on her adventure through the countryside.

I have to say, I wasn’t expecting this graphic novel to be so, well, graphic. The artistry is beautiful, but scenes with the zombies are incredibly gruesome. And some are just outright macabre.

I also didn’t find myself connecting to either Vivi or Eva. As much as I wanted to at least feel sympathetic for Vivi, I just couldn’t connect to either of them. I wonder if, because this was originally published in German, if there was something lost in the translation.

I did like the way this graphic novel touches on themes of dealing with loss and friendship and protecting your family.

Trigger warnings: attempted suicide

I was provided with a advanced reader copy from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

BOOK REVIEW: Runaways by Rainbow Rowell Vol. 1: Find Your Way Home

I picked up this graphic novel to read shortly after finishing the last season of the television series. Granted, the two are not connected or related in any way, but it almost felt like they were.

This felt like it picked up where the television series left off (again, not connected!) – just after the battle in the hostel. Except years have passed and the Runaways have all gone their separate ways. Except Gert, who died in the battle.

Chase never left the hostel and has created a time travel machine and figured out a way to travel back in time to save Gert. Except, to save her, her brought her into the present and out of her timeline.

Gert’s mission, now that she’s alive, is to bring the band back together. I loved the overarching storyline of finding your chosen family and forgiving one another – especially right now during this COVID-19 quarantine.