All Aboard the ARC: Squad by Maggie Tokuda-Hall (Author) and Lisa Sterle (Illustrator)

Squad by Maggie Tokuda-Hall (Author) and Lisa Sterle (Illustrator)

***Note: I received a free digital review copy of this book from NetGalley and Greenwillow Books in exchange for an honest review. I have not received compensation for the inclusion of any links found in this review or on any other page of The Voracious Bibliophile which mentions Squad, its creators, or its publisher.***

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Short Blurb: Maggie Tokuda-Hall takes everything you think you know about werewolves and their lore and gives it a feminist (and sapphic) bent. The result is a graphic novel that’s just a lot of fun to read (and talk about with your squad—no incels allowed, unless of course they’re on the menu).

Review

Maggie Tokuda-Hall’s Squad is a perfect blend of horror, suspense, and believe it or not, romance. It’s sort of like if Mean Girls had a baby with Teen Wolf that grew up to be super freaking gay and not a little sarcastic. Combine that with Lisa Sterle’s vibrant art style reminiscent of the best of the Archie Comics and what you have is a delightful romp just ripe for adaptation. Does anyone have Netflix’s number?

It’s [Squad] sort of like if Mean Girls had a baby with Teen Wolf that grew up to be super freaking gay and not a little sarcastic.

It all starts when Becca moves with her mom from LA to Piedmont in her junior year of high school. Becca has always wanted to fit in, so when a clique of popular girls takes her in, she feels like she has a place for the first time in her life. It turns out though that Becca’s new squad is less of a clique and more of a pack. Of werewolves, that is, with bites far worse than their barks. These werewolves don’t hunt the innocent, though. Their prey are the predators. Sleazy boys oozing generational wealth and privilege who take advantage of girls at parties. Boys who know history and the law is on their side telling them they’ll get away with it because most of the time they do.

Their prey are the predators.

Becca discovers her friends’ secret at a party outside underneath a full moon. A skinny incel named Bart O’Kavanaugh (Tokuda-Hall’s character naming is very tongue in cheek) gets Becca away from the larger group and tries to assault her. Their exchange really is rape culture in a nutshell:

Bart: You’re hella pretty.

Becca: Okay.

Bart moves in to kiss her and Becca squirms away from him.

Bart: Don’t make it weird.

Becca: Don’t make it rapey.

Bart: Why’d you even come with me then?

Becca: Boredom? I don’t know why I even believed you when you said you were gonna show me something cool.

Bart: Yeah, my dick!

Becca tries to turn away from him.

Becca: Let’s go back to the party.

Bart puts his hand on Becca’s shoulder.

Bart: I can tell you want it.

Becca turns again, trying to dislodge his hand off her shoulder, and Bart violently grabs her by the arm while she tries to free herself. She smacks him in the face, tearing up.

Becca: Let me go, dude!

Bart grabs Becca once again and tears are streaming down her face.

Bart: Jesus, don’t be such a bitch!

There’s a rustling nearby. Suddenly Arianna, Marley, and Mandy step into view.

Marley: You know, you gotta be careful around bitches.

The three girls start transforming into wolves, growing fangs, claws, and fur, tongues lolling in anticipation.

Marley: We roll in packs.

You know, you gotta be careful around bitches. We roll in packs.

If that scene isn’t the most patriarchy-toppling in any piece of media ever, I don’t know what is. There’s something extremely satisfying about seeing boys with names like O’Kavanaugh and Weinstein get eaten by girls-turned-werewolves. After they rescue her from Bart, Becca joins the girls’ pack and has to learn to cope with this new aspect of her identity and all it encompasses. Along with being a newly-turned werewolf, Becca also has another secret to keep that’s gurgling just beneath the surface. When you’re young, or any age, really, having to hide part of yourself to stay safe does damage that takes a long time to heal. Sometimes it doesn’t. That’s true for gay people, women, and werewolves.

When you’re young, or any age, really, having to hide part of yourself to stay safe does damage that takes a long time to heal. Sometimes it doesn’t. That’s true for gay people, women, and werewolves.

Fear not, though, dear readers—Squad doesn’t disappoint and isn’t a tragedy by any stretch of the imagination. In this hybrid horror-romance story, the girls get mad, the boys get eaten, and love triumphs over all. And if only for a moment, everyone who’s ever had to say #MeToo feels just a little bit better.

Squad was released by Greenwillow Books on October 5th, 2021 and is available to purchase wherever books are sold.

Thanks as always for being a faithful reader of The Voracious Bibliophile. If you like what you see, please like, comment, follow, and subscribe to my email list to get notified of new posts as soon as they drop. You can also email me at fred.slusher@thevoraciousbibliophile.com or catch me on Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, and Pinterest @voraciousbiblog. Keep reading the world, one page (or pixel) at a time.

All Aboard the ARC: Stick and Stone Explore and More by Beth Ferry (Words) and Kristen Cella (Pictures)

Stick and Stone Explore and More by Beth Ferry (Words) and Kristen Cella (Pictures)

***Note: I received a free digital review copy of this book from NetGalley and Clarion Books (formerly HMH Children’s Books) in exchange for an honest review.***

I believe we can officially add Stick and Stone to the canon of great friends in children’s literature.

I believe we can officially add Stick and Stone to the canon of great friends in children’s literature. They are joining the ranks of Arnold Lobel’s Frog and Toad, Mo Willems’s Elephant and Piggie, and Marc Brown’s Arthur Read and Buster Baxter.

In “Stick and Stone and the Nature Girl”, the two friends try (and fail) to evade being captured by an opportunistic Nature Girl who, along with other members of her troop, is collecting objects from nature starting with each letter of the alphabet. While the friends do end up being snatched (erroneously as Rock and Twig), they are never in any real danger, because the Nature Girl’s Troop Leader reiterates to all of the participants the Nature Girl motto, which is: “Take nothing but pictures. Leave nothing but footprints. Keep nothing but memories.” The friends are deposited back in their original spots and all is made right again in their world.

Nature Girl Motto: Take nothing but pictures. Leave nothing but footprints. Keep nothing but memories.

In “Stick and Stone and the Sticky Situation”, Stick and Stone get a little more adventure than they bargained for when they end up on a beach and instead of enjoying a nice soak in the sun, Stone is used for a beach campfire along with other rocks of varying sizes and Stick gets a marshmallow for a hat and very nearly gets roasted. A beneficent rain ruins the beachgoers’ fun while saving the lives of Stick and Stone and their new friends.

Beth Ferry and Kristen Cella have delivered another excellent chapter in the saga of Stick and Stone, and readers of all ages are sure to delight in their latest adventures.

Stick and Stone Explore and More is due to be released by Clarion Books (formerly HMH Children’s Books) on June 7th, 2022 and is available to preorder wherever books are sold.

Thanks as always for being a faithful reader of The Voracious Bibliophile. If you like what you see, please like, comment, follow, and subscribe to my email list to get notified of new posts as soon as they drop. You can also email me at fred.slusher@thevoraciousbibliophile.com or catch me on Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, and Pinterest @voraciousbiblog. Keep reading the world, one page (or pixel) at a time.

Goodreads Reading Challenge Update

There are 52 reading days left in the year. My current count is 211 books, which means I have 52 days to read 89 books. For those of you who are interested in the mathematical breakdown, this means I’ll have to read 1.68 books per day for the rest of the year to meet my goal. Looks like I’m going to be settling in with a stack of picture books and graphic novels. By the way, those totally count, and you can bite me if you disagree.

I missed my goal by two last year and I’ll be darned if I let a late-evening nap on December 31st make me fail again.

I missed my goal by two last year and I’ll be darned if I let a late-evening nap on December 31st make me fail again. To be fair to myself, I do work nearly 50 hours a week at my day job so my free time is limited. Add that onto the fact that this blog (which I love dearly and wouldn’t give up for any amount of money) quickly went from a side project to a second full-time job, and I’m constantly going sixty per.

The other day I was taking lunch in my office at work and one of my employees came to ask me a question and caught me dead asleep.

But you know what? It’s true what they say: Dreams don’t work unless you do. I would like to be more intentional about carving out time for R&R though because I am never not tired. The other day I was taking lunch in my office at work and one of my employees came to ask me a question and caught me dead asleep. I’m talking mouth open, blacked out. But ironically, my hand was still in perfect position on top of my computer mouse. If that’s not #hustleculture in a nutshell then I don’t know what is. He immediately videoed it and SnapChatted it to another employee so I’m sure I’m enjoying a presence as a meme somewhere on the Internet right now.

Speaking of coworkers, another of mine just hit 100,000 pages for the year toward their reading goal and color me impressed. Between the two of us we probably read more than a hundred average humans combined each year.

At any rate, I can’t see myself stopping the tradition anytime soon, especially since I’ve got a TBR mountain that would make an Olympian (god, not athlete) feel inferior.

I have lots of other librarian and bookseller friends who set reading goals each year, but there’s a growing contingent of them who are dispensing with the tradition, citing it as stressful and sucking the fun out of reading. And they’re not wrong. If I were to put very much stock into whether I make my goal or not, it’d probably depress me on the years I didn’t make it. I don’t let it get to me as much as I used to, except for last year when I missed it by TWO FREAKING BOOKS. Huh…maybe they’re onto something. Oh well. At any rate, I can’t see myself stopping the tradition anytime soon, especially since I’ve got a TBR mountain that would make an Olympian (god, not athlete) feel inferior.

Did you set a reading goal this year? Do you ever? Why or why not? Let me know in the comments or shoot me an email. Only if you want to, of course.

Thanks as always for being a faithful reader of The Voracious Bibliophile. If you like what you see, please like, comment, follow, and subscribe to my email list to get notified of new posts as soon as they drop. You can also email me at fred.slusher@thevoraciousbibliophile.com or catch me on Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, and Pinterest @voraciousbiblog. Keep reading the world, one page (or pixel) at a time.

All Aboard the ARC: Matias and the Cloud by Jorge G. Palomera and Ana Sanfelippo (Illustrator)

Matias and the Cloud by Jorge G. Palomera and Ana Sanfelippo (Illustrator)

***Note: I received a free digital review copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.***

We must be entering a golden age for wordless picture books. In October, Anthony and the Gargoyle by Jo Ellen Bogart (originally reviewed on my blog here) hit shelves and warmed the hearts of readers everywhere. And anyone who missed Aaron Becker’s wordless Journey trilogy would be doing themselves a great disservice by not acquiring it immediately. Now, we have this little gem due to be released on February 22nd of next year by Clarion Books. Talk about an embarrassment of riches.

Once the guests have left and all but one of the presents have been unwrapped, Matias and his dog discover something quite spectacular in the last gift: a magic cloud.

Matias and the Cloud opens on the morning of Matias’s birthday. His family throws him a big party to celebrate his special day, with cake and a piñata and presents stacked high just waiting to be unwrapped. Once the guests have left and all but one of the presents have been unwrapped, Matias and his dog discover something quite spectacular in the last gift: a magic cloud.

This enchanted cloud is no ordinary fluffnugget of condensed vapor. On the contrary, this cloud can float and bounce and do all sorts of neat things.

This enchanted cloud is no ordinary fluffnugget of condensed vapor. On the contrary, this cloud can float and bounce and do all sorts of neat things. What will Matias and his dog get up to with their new friend? You’ll have to get it yourself to find out.

Matias and the Cloud is due to be released by Clarion Books on February 22nd, 2022 and is available to preorder wherever books are sold.

Thanks as always for being a faithful reader of The Voracious Bibliophile. If you like what you see, please like, comment, follow, and subscribe to my email list to get notified of new posts as soon as they drop. You can also email me at fred.slusher@thevoraciousbibliophile.com or catch me on Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, and Pinterest @voraciousbiblog. Keep reading the world, one page (or pixel) at a time.

All Aboard the ARC: Garlic and the Vampire by Bree Paulsen

***Note: I received a free digital review copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.***

Garlic and the Vampire is in my opinion one of the best graphic novels written for younger readers to come out in the past decade. It tells the story of Garlic, who lives in a community of anthropomorphic vegetables created and cared for by Witch Agnes, a benevolent sorceress who teaches her vegetables the value of hard work and giving back to one’s community.

When we first meet Garlic, she is shy, passive, and timid. When a vampire is discovered to be living in the castle near their community, Garlic is decided to be the only one who can safely determine whether or not he is a threat to the humans who live in the village. She reluctantly decides to go despite her fears, knowing it’s the right thing to do.

Along the way she becomes braver, learning to rely on her own inner strength. When she finally confronts the count she learns that just because someone is different doesn’t always mean they’re to be feared, and that the best way to find out about someone else is to talk to them.

Garlic and the Vampire is due to be released on September 28th of this year and is now available to preorder wherever books are sold.

Thanks as always for being a faithful reader of The Voracious Bibliophile. If you like what you see, please follow, like, comment, and subscribe to my email list to get notified of new posts as soon as they drop. You can also email me at thevoraciousbibliophile@yahoo.com or catch me on Twitter @voraciousbiblog. Keep reading the world, one page (or pixel) at a time.

All Aboard the ARC: Lugosi: The Rise and Fall of Hollywood’s Dracula by Koren Shadmi

***Note: I received a free digital review copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.***

There’s the likeness and the icon itself. The myth and the man behind it. We owe our modern conception of Dracula to Bela Lugosi, who donned the cape of the infamous bloodthirsty count in Tod Browning’s production of Dracula, which premiered in 1931, before the pearl-clutchers would focus their prudish crosshairs on the film industry in the form of the Hays Code, which forced studios to either veil or completely eliminate references to anything the aforementioned pearl-clutchers would consider morally reprehensible. Horror films were a natural target of the Code, so it is to the benefit of the culture at-large and the horror industry in particular that Dracula was released in the pre-Code era.

Horror films were a natural target of the Code, so it is to the benefit of the culture at-large and the horror industry in particular that Dracula was released in the pre-Code era.

Bela Lugosi was a Hungarian émigré who first cut his teeth on the stage in the National Theatre of Hungary. After facing political persecution, he made his move to the promising shores of America. First starring in (as well as producing and directing) shoestring-budget theater productions with other Hungarian émigrés, young Bela soon found himself disheartened, feeling as if he was destined to die a penniless pauper.

His first big break came when he met Henry Barton, a theatrical manager who had been impressed with Lugosi’s performance in one of his Hungarian-language productions. The American impresario hadn’t understood a word of the dialogue, but had been captivated by Lugosi’s command of the stage. He told him he would be perfect in a new play he was producing called The Red Poppy if only his English were better. Never one to give up, Lugosi told Barton he was a quick learner and would be willing to have an English tutor hired with the tutor’s wages deducted from his own.

The Red Poppy’s run was short-lived, a commercial failure. Lugosi, however, was praised for his performance and afterwards he had consistent work in small-budget English-language theater and silent film productions. Once he secured the role of the titular character in Hamilton Deane and John L. Balderston’s Broadway production of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, his fate was sealed. The rest, as they say, is history.

Koren Shadmi does an excellent job bringing Bela Lugosi to life. Penning a pictorial biography of one of the world’s most iconic actors is a daunting task, certainly not for the faint of heart, but Shadmi deftly illuminates the man behind the myth, waking him from his coffin for a whole new generation.

Penning a pictorial biography of one of the world’s most iconic actors is a daunting task, certainly not for the faint of heart, but Shadmi deftly illuminates the man behind the myth, waking him from his coffin for a whole new generation.

Shadmi’s book is just as perfect for the longtime Lugosi acolyte as it is for those who only know him through his image as Dracula. It is evocative and daring and sobering. I honestly can’t recommend it highly enough.

Shadmi’s book is just as perfect for the longtime Lugosi acolyte as it is for those who only know him through his image as Dracula.

Lugosi: The Rise and Fall of Hollywood’s Dracula by Koren Shadmi is due out on September 28th, 2021 and is available to preorder wherever books are sold.

Thanks as always for being a faithful reader of The Voracious Bibliophile. If you like what you see, please follow, like, comment, and subscribe to my email list to get notified of new posts as soon as they drop. You can also email me at thevoraciousbibliophile@yahoo.com or catch me on Twitter @voraciousbiblog. Keep reading the world, one page (or pixel) at a time.