Monstress Volume 4: The Chosen – Marjorie Liu

Illustrations – Sana Takeda

Spoilers Ahead!

Two things happened when I finished reading Monstress Volume 3:

I learned that I was simultaneously desperate to continue reading and scared that something awful would happen to Kippa. My fear for Kippa won and I’ve been putting off reading this Volume for months now as a result.

I bought Book One, the signed Barnes & Noble exclusive version, and it’s gorgeous! It even includes postcards, which feature some of Sana Takeda’s extraordinary artwork.

Just in case I wasn’t already too invested in Kippa’s wellbeing, this Volume begins by upping her adorability quotient to infinity by showing me baby Kippa! Because apparently my emotions are fair game. Aww!! Incidentally, toddler Maika is also a sweetheart.

Maika and Corvin are trying to find Kippa, who is being taken to the ‘doctor’. That sounds ominous. In their travels Maika winds up seeing her father.

While all of the adults are strategising for the coming war it’s Kippa who again softens the narrative with her ability to forgive someone who betrayed her.

“I can’t abandon people because they make mistakes – I would have to abandon myself.”

I’m not always entirely clear what’s happening at all times or whose side I should be on but I do know one thing: war is coming, people, and it’s not gonna be pretty.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Maika and Corvin make their way through a warped and lethal land in search of Kippa, who is faced with her own terrible monsters. But when Maika comes face to face with a stranger from her deep past, startling truths are uncovered, and at the center of it all lurks a dangerous conspiracy that threatens the Known World. Maika is finally close to getting all the answers she ever wanted, but at what price? With war on the horizon, a war no one wants to stop, whose side will Maika choose?

Collects Monstress 19-24. 

The Ten Thousand Doors of January – Alix E. Harrow

Perhaps one cannot walk through a door and back out again without changing the world.

This was a book within a book, worlds within a world, dream come true. I was enchanted and mesmerised from the very beginning. My heart is full of hope and possibilities, and my imagination is so happy and fulfilled, yet because you can never have enough magical portals in your life, I’m left yearning for more.

I want to tell you everything about this book but don’t want to ruin it for you so I’ll only tell you this:

January Scaller finds a Door when she’s seven but, because she’s so eager to please, she focuses her attention on becoming the “good girl” she’s expected to be.

I spent the years after the blue Door doing what most willful, temerarious girls must do: becoming less so.

Years later, the memory of that Door resurfaces when she finds a life changing book.

It smelled like adventure itself had been harvested in the wild, distilled to a fine wine, and splashed across each page.

I believed in the worlds behind these Doors without hesitation. Perhaps some of my belief can be explained away by the fact that I’ve casually sought my own door since first reading The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and more fervently since Every Heart a Doorway but it’s really because this book was just that good!

Whenever I read a book that mentions another book I always investigate further. Does that book exist in my world? Do I need to add it to my ever expanding to be read list? If it doesn’t exist in my world, will the author ever write it? I was thrilled that the primary book January reads in this book actually exists and its chapters are included within this book! This is one of my dreams come true! Of course, the book within the book had references to other books, which don’t exist (yet – I checked), but I was so excited to be reading an actual book within a book and it was perfect!

The Ten Thousand Doors of January explores the power of words, the nature of power and the price of freedom. January experiences abandonment and loss, and I ached for her as she longed for acceptance and belonging. I empathised with the feeling of being pressured to conform to others’ expectations of you even when they diminish you and the courage it takes to live beyond your labels, learning to follow your own truth.

January’s Doors take her to places, physically and internally, that compelled me to want to follow in her footsteps. This book took a lot longer than I had planned to read due to illness, but each time I picked it up I was immersed in January’s story again within a paragraph.

I learned of Alix E. Harrow’s brilliance when I read A Witch’s Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies during my (ongoing) 2019 Hugo Awards readathon. I reviewed it here. My love of this short story resulted in my unceremoniously moving The Ten Thousand Doors of January to the top of my reading queue.

I highlighted so many passages as I read this book; there were so many beautiful sentences I know I’ll need to revisit. January is a bookworm, so a kindred spirit of mine, and often spoke of books and reading in ways that felt like she was reaching into my own soul:

There’s only one way to run away from your own story, and that’s to sneak into someone else’s.

Some of the sentences I highlighted tell you nothing of the story but said plenty to me about the talent of its author. This is someone who can transform the ordinary into something memorable.

His hair clung to his skull in a white scimitar, as if the heat of his working mind had burned it away from the top of his head.

She shrugged again; I began to see them as practical gestures, designed to shed the weight of resentment threatening to settle on her shoulders.

While I greedily want a sequel I mostly hope there isn’t one. This book ends so perfectly that I want the exquisite agony of needing more to linger. I knew there was something special about this author when I read and reread A Witch’s Guide to Escape but after going through the Doors with January I’m certain of it. I don’t care what Alix writes about next; I’ll be reading it no matter what.

Content warnings include racism, xenophobia, assault on beloved dog and actions that could be described as self harm, except the intention is different than what I would consider true self harm behaviour.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Orbit, an imprint of Little, Brown Book Group (UK), for the opportunity to fall in love with this book early. I want everyone to read it!

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

In the early 1900’s, a young woman embarks on a fantastical journey of self-discovery after finding a mysterious book in this captivating and lyrical debut.

In a sprawling mansion filled with peculiar treasures, January Scaller is a curiosity herself. As the ward of the wealthy Mr. Locke, she feels little different from the artifacts that decorate the halls: carefully maintained, largely ignored, and utterly out of place.

Then she finds a strange book. A book that carries the scent of other worlds, and tells a tale of secret doors, of love, adventure and danger. Each page turn reveals impossible truths about the world and January discovers a story increasingly entwined with her own.

Monstress Volume 3: Haven – Marjorie Liu

Illustrations – Sana Takeda

Spoilers Ahead!

Monstress Volume 3: Haven is a 2019 Hugo Awards finalist in the Best Graphic Story category.

Maika, Kippa and Ren have now made it to Tear Shed, a refugee camp.

Corvin is also there and he, Maika and Kippa have some awkward moments in a coffee shop.

Maika also meets Vihn Nem, the Royal Engineer of Pontus, who offers Maika and her friends sanctuary in exchange for her reactivating the Pontus Shield.

Lady Atena and Resak meet up with the Prime Minister and Admiral Brito to discuss politics, fake news and the potential threat of the Mother Superior.

While Maika and Zinn are working together to try to fix the Shield,

all hell is breaking out as the war has begun.

Kippa’s cute factor, which I didn’t think could cope with any additional adorability points, skyrocketed. I love her to bits and want to adopt her. Her loyalty, positivity and courage put most adults to shame.

I wasn’t quite as invested in the story during the first half of this Volume, as everyone seemed to be positioning themselves for the inevitable war, but I got sucked back in, only to find myself perched on the edge of a cliff at the end. If anything bad happens to Kippa I’m going to ugly cry, I just know it!

Once again the artwork was exceptional. I’m in awe of the details and just want to keep paging through each Volume. One of my favourite images in this Volume is this one,

but my absolute favourite is this awesomeness.

Yes, of course the location of my favourite illustration is a library! I can’t help myself where majestic libraries are concerned.

I expect a reread will help me to figure out the connections I’ve missed during this read.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Maika Halfwolf has begun to unlock the mysteries of her past – but the challenges are only going. In this third volume of Monstress, collecting issues 13-18, Maika’s journey takes her to the neutral city of Pontus, where she hopes to find temporary refuge from her pursuers. Unfortunately, Pontus may not be as safe as Maika and her allies had hoped.

As the impending war between humans and Arcanics creeps ever closer, and powerful players fight for the chance to control her future, Maika finds she must work with Zinn, the Monstrum that lives inside her, in order to ensure their mutual survival. But even that alliance might not be enough to prepare Maika for the horrors to come.

Paper Girls Volume 4 – Brian K. Vaughan

Illustrations – Cliff Chiang

Colours – Matt Wilson

Spoilers Ahead!

Paper Girls Volume 4 is a 2019 Hugo Awards finalist in the Best Graphic Story category.

A note about spoilers: major spoilers are included in this review about what’s happened previously in the series and what happens in this Volume. I’m not sure how long it will be before I make it to Volume 5 and don’t want to forget anything important so this is my summary. I’ve hidden pretty much everything I’ve got to say about this Volume. Regardless, if you’re not up to this Volume, please be really careful about opening anything spoilery.

When we last saw Tiffany she had arrived in Stony Stream in 2000, in a reality where Y2K actually happened, and it’s worse than anyone even imagined. While the rest of the Paper Girls are initially nowhere in sight, Tiffany is not alone.

The old-timers are also here, but quite a bit younger than they were in Volume 2 when we saw them last. Grand Father and Prioress are considering going nuclear.

Tiffany is trying to convince the police officer who wants to arrest her for looting (which she wasn’t doing. I swear!) that she’s actually from 1988 when she finally notices that they’re not alone.

Except it seems that for now Tiffany and I are the only ones who see the gigantic Transformers fighting in the background because the friendly neighbourhood police officer only sees smoke. Huh. Go figure.

Meanwhile, Erin, Mac and KJ are at the mall. A couple of looters fill them in about the millennium bug.

Pretty big, apparently. At least our girls are all in the same time right now, even if they’re not all together.

Doc from Volume 3 mentioned that the black device the girls have been carrying around was registered to Frankie Tomatah, which was clearly a pseudonym. At the time Erin thought that name seemed familiar but before she could think about it any further all hell broke loose in 11,706 BCE. Now she has a moment to check the comics page, which Naldo and Heck from Volume 1 also did, and figures out there’s a clue there. Great work, Erin!

It turns out that Frankie Tomatah is a comic strip written by C. Spachefski and thanks to the good ol’ White Pages, Erin, Mac and KJ pay her a house call. It seems she’s been expecting them.

Charlotte explains about the Battle of the Ages. The old-timers are enemy fighters, part of a group of the first generation born after time travel was invented, who think it’s immoral to interfere with the timeline, even if you’re trying to fix it. Naldo, Heck and others like them are defying their ancestors to try to fix the timeline regardless. Okay, that’s making more sense now. Oh, and in case you forgot, the old-timers have amnesia rays. Of course they do. Although I’m not sure if I trust Charlotte or anyone other than our four Paper Girls.

Things outside remain pretty chaotic.

Tiffany wanders off to find her parents and instead finds Chris, her future husband.

I love all of the twists in this series! I got one massive surprise in this Volume when I learned Grand Father is actually Jahpo. This is incredible!

Also, future Tiffany is all kinds of awesome!

In the last Volume the bag of newspapers made a great pillow. In this Volume they prove their usefulness in another way.

I love all of this time travel and not knowing who to trust. Although a group of girls from 1988 somehow have the fate of the entire world in their hands, they’re about as clueless as I am and I adore their reactions as they attempt to navigate all the weirdness. I can’t wait to read Volume 5 so I can check out the future!


Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

The mind-bending, time-warping adventure from Brian K. Vaughan and Cliff Chiang continues, as intrepid newspaper deliverer Tiffany is launched from the prehistoric past into the year 2000! In this harrowing version of our past, Y2K was even more of a cataclysm than experts feared, and the only person who can save the future is a 12-year-old girl from 1988.

Collects Paper Girls 16-20.

The Secret Lives of the Nine Negro Teeth of George Washington – Phenderson Djéli Clark

Fireside Magazine Issue 52, February 2018

Spoilers Ahead!

The Secret Lives of the Nine Negro Teeth of George Washington is a 2019 Hugo Awards finalist in the Best Short Story category.

“By Cash pd Negroes for 9 Teeth on Acct of Dr. Lemoire”

– Lund Washington, Mount Vernon plantation, Account Book dated 1784.

George Washington, slavery and magic collide in this alternate history. While I will never understand the mentality that makes people think slavery is ever an option I enjoyed reading about the strength and character of the nine slaves included in this story. I particularly loved anticipating the impact each particular tooth would have on George.

For the blacksmith understood what masters had chosen to forget: when you make a man or woman a slave you enslave yourself in turn.

You can read this short story online here. I’ll definitely be rereading this story.

Content warnings include suicide attempts.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The Court Magician – Sarah Pinsker

Lightspeed Magazine, January 2018

The Court Magician is a 2019 Hugo Awards finalist in the Best Short Story category.

“The Guild is for magicians who feel the need to compete with each other. The Palace trains magicians who feel compelled to compete against themselves.”

This story haunted me when I first read it a few months ago and I’m not sure why I only gave it ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ at the time. All day I’ve been bingeing on the finalists in this Hugo Award category and I purposely left this story to last, remembering how much I enjoyed it the first time I read it.

I adore underdogs who set out to achieve whatever they dream of through sheer determination and persistence. I smile with glee when an author writes a story that lulls me into a sense of safety before pulling the rug from under me with a twist that is at once brutal and brilliant. I‘m surprised when an unnamed character finds their way into my heart in only a few short pages. I will always want to read about magic. I love that I enjoyed this story even more the second time I read it.

You can read this short story online here.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The Rose MacGregor Drinking and Admiration Society – T. Kingfisher

Uncanny Magazine Issue 25: November/December 2018

The Rose MacGregor Drinking and Admiration Society is a 2019 Hugo Awards finalist in the Best Short Story category.

Half a dozen faerie boys, a selkie and a horse are sitting around a fire. They’re trying to figure out why Rose MacGregor didn’t pine for them, instead marrying the blacksmith.

“Are we pining?” asked the green-eyed fae suddenly. “Is this what it’s like when they pine away after us?”

Unfortunately I didn’t enjoy this short story at all.

Once Upon a Nitpick: The spelling of Rose’s surname kept changing throughout the story. Sometimes it was MacGregor and other times it was McGregor. This has no bearing on my star rating but it really bugged me.

You can read this short story online here.

Rating: 2 out of 5.

STET – Sarah Gailey

Fireside Magazine Issue 60, October 2018

STET is a 2019 Hugo Awards finalist in the Best Short Story category.

This story is told in an unusual and interesting way. It’s a scientific paper with annotations. For me the story came alive more in the annotations, although the footnotes provide sufficient information for you to learn the story behind the story. I tend to gloss over whenever I encounter copious footnotes in any text so that influenced my reading experience here.

I had to force myself to get to the guts of the actual story. I felt the pain and anger in this piece but overall it didn’t work for me. I see journal articles and I automatically think of dry, wordy documents I drudged through to find information for university assignments, so I don’t think this format was ever going to be a winner for me.

You can read this short story online here. I found this version didn’t flow as well for me as the PDF version with handwritten notes, even though they contain the same text.

Content warnings include references to the death of a child.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

The Tale of the Three Beautiful Raptor Sisters, and the Prince Who Was Made of Meat – Brooke Bolander

Uncanny Magazine Issue 23: July/August 2018

The Tale of the Three Beautiful Raptor Sisters, and the Prince Who Was Made of Meat is a 2019 Hugo Awards finalist in the Best Short Story category.

This was a predictable but fun fairytale featuring three raptor sisters, whose names translate into human as Allie, Betty and Ceecee. They are a “hunting pride of matriarchal dromaeosauridae”. The youngest sister, Ceecee, encounters a bumbling Prince and his stead while hunting in the forest and as a result the sisters’ happy lives get more complicated.

I found the Prince to be more a caricature than anything else. I liked the Princess and appreciated her yearning to shed the yoke that had been placed upon her. Although I understood its purpose, I think I would have liked this tale of female empowerment more if the man in the story had a personality that extended beyond his stupidity.

You can read this short story online here.


Rating: 3 out of 5.

On a Sunbeam – Tillie Walden

On a Sunbeam is a 2019 Hugo Awards finalist in the Best Graphic Story category.

Mia is the new kid. The lady introducing Mia to everyone is Alma. Elliot (Ell) is the mechanical genius with the blond hair; they’re non-binary and don’t talk. Jules is the one with ice skates on her shirt; she’s loud and a lot of fun. Charlotte, the ship’s captain, is wearing the white jacket. She’s shy but opens up once you get to know her. Charlotte and Alma are partners.

This awesomeness is their ship.

Their team restores old buildings. Like this one, which has hidden rooms and staircases that lead to nowhere. I need to go there immediately!

Five years earlier, Mia met Grace. It was the first day of school and their paths crossed in the principal’s office while they waited their turns to get into trouble.

I liked Grace immediately and I adored Mia and Grace as a couple. Even this romantiphobe can see that these girls are capable of breaking the cute-meter. I can’t get enough of them.

See? Aren’t they just the sweetest couple ever?? Why did no one ever escort me to a school dance on a hoverboard?!

I absolutely love this story! I’m a sucker for found families so this was right up my alley. I usually don’t like anything that hints at including a love story and this has two, but they were gorgeous. All of the main characters were wonderful. Each had a distinct personality and their various backgrounds were interesting.

The world building was surprisingly easy to pick up, given there wasn’t as much text as I’m used to. I guess pictures really do paint a thousand words if they’re done well. Whether there were words or not I didn’t have to work to figure out how anyone was feeling or what the overall mood was in a specific situation. I did have trouble deciphering a couple of words here and there, but that may be due to reading it on an iPad.

The artwork is stunning. The colour palette is so subdued that each additional colour pops. This is one of the prettiest graphic novels I’ve ever seen and I don’t want it to be over. I need to know what happens to everyone next!

You can view all 20 chapters online at Please check it out! It’s so good.

Special Feature: If you’re like me and you greedily devour movie and TV series’ special features to glean information about all of the behind the scenes stuff you didn’t know you needed to know, then you’ll be interested to know that the title of this story comes from the Belle & Sebastian song ‘Asleep on a Sunbeam’. You can listen to it here.

Content warnings include bullying and fairly frequent swearing.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Throughout the deepest reaches of space, a crew rebuilds beautiful and broken-down structures, painstakingly putting the past together. As new member Mia gets to know her team, the story flashes back to her pivotal year in boarding school, where she fell in love with a mysterious new student. Soon, though, Mia reveals her true purpose for joining their ship – to track down her long-lost love.

An inventive world, a breathtaking love story, and stunning art come together in this new work by award-winning artist Tillie Walden.