November 5, 2019

Abbreviations #91: Bloom, Mooncakes + The Tea Dragon Festival

To be completely honest, it was the aesthetic of Bloom that really caught my eye initially, with its appealing illustration style and the blue tones of the panels. I’m happy I ended up picking this one up on a whim while I was at the bookstore, however, because I really liked this story! This graphic novel centers primarily around Ari, whose family owns a bakery in their small town. He’s been groomed all his life to take over one day, but Ari has dreams bigger than being a baker and is trying to find a way to pursue those dreams without letting his family down. Enter Hector, a young man who loves baking and winds up working with Ari at the bakery, and the story pretty much rolls on from there. I can confirm, first, that the illustration style and coloring were most certainly elements of this graphic novel that I enjoyed from start to finish, and it lent to the nostalgic, easy feel of the actual plot. I also really enjoyed the characters in this one, from Ari, whose struggles in the story are extremely relatable, to equally relatable Hector (and their very adorable relationship that I was totally rooting for), to his family and his friends, who all felt like real personalities popping right off the page. The story, too, was compelling, and even though it’s a touch quieter than most of the graphic novel plots I’m accustomed to, I was still really invested. What didn’t work too well, in my opinion, is the big climactic event that changes everything, as well as the fallout and resolution afterwards. That entire last portion felt rushed and lacking in page time, and I think adding a few pages more would really have affected my overall opinion. But, overall, I’d say that Bloom was a graphic novel worth checking out.

Bloom was released on February 12, 2019 by First Second.

I was so excited for Mooncakes when Kristin first put it on my radar. After devouring the entire graphic novel in one sitting, I am happy to report that it is just as delightful as I’d hoped it would be! If it were possible to characterize this one, I’d personally label it as “paranormal adventure, but cozy and fluffy”. On the one hand, you have the high stakes paranormal aspect of the story where Nova (the witch) and Tam (the werewolf) must work together to figure out a way to triumph over the dark forces that threaten Tam. On the other hand, you have the coziness of the familial, friendly and romantic aspects of this story for the full-on fluffy, sweet bits. Taking both these aspects in, and then adding in a cast of likable and diverse characters (particularly Nova, who is Chinese-American, and Tam, who is non-binary and Chinese-American as well) and a lovely illustration style, it’s no surprise that I truly loved Mooncakes and would definitely recommend it as one to add to your TBR pile.

Mooncakes was released on October 15, 2019 by Lion Forge. 
I received an ARC from the publisher during Book Expo 2019 for review.

I had no clue going into The Tea Dragon Festival that it was a prequel to The Tea Dragon Society, and not a direct sequel like I thought it would be. But my misconception was easily corrected partway through, and the knowledge didn’t affect my overall enjoyment of this graphic novel! The story is a touch more compelling to me than its predecessor, as it focuses both on discovering the reason a young dragon has been asleep for many, many years and what place that dragon will now occupy in the village it was meant to serve as guardian to all those years past. I really adore the fact that it explored the idea of finding your place, and it succeeded in making me feel all the things as the story progressed. Throw in the diversity of the characters and the lovely signature illustration style O’Neill has, and it all came together to become this wonderful and adorable graphic novel. I’d highly recommend it (and The Tea Dragon Society) and absolutely cannot wait for O’Neill to share more stories set in this world. 

The Tea Dragon Festival was released on September 17, 2019 by Oni Press. 
I received an ARC from the publisher during Book Expo 2019 for review.


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