Sami’s (End Of) Summer Reading Challenge 2k16

My present relationship with reading is complicated. Ever since I moved to San Diego four years ago, I’ve been slacking on reading for fun. I blame school and my own lack of motivation on the reading-for-fun front. This makes me feel bad because I’ve accumulated so many unread books over the past few years…yikes. I used to read a lot. Like, a lot. So much that I would be told to stop and do something else. I hold my phone/use my phone as much as I should be holding a book nowadays, and recently, I’ve come to realize that I can’t live like that anymore.

Now that I have a lot more time on my hands (thank you, post-grad job hunting life), what better way to put moments of boredom to good use than to read a damn book or two?

Here’s my personal challenge: for the next five weeks, I’m planning on pairing a graphic novel with a book. Here are my new reads for the next five weeks, with summaries from their respective publishers:

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WEEK ONE:

Heroine Complex by Sarah Kuhn | “Pitched as “The Devil Wears Prada with superheroes,” the first book chronicles the adventures of Evie Tanaka, a put-upon personal assistant who is forced to pose as her diva superhero boss and must embrace her own hidden talents in order to protect our world from a demonic invasion.” (from Sarah Kuhn’s website)

*Monstress by Marjorie Liu, art by Sana Takeda | “Steampunk meets Kaiju in this original fantasy epic for mature readers, as young Maika risks everything to control her psychic link with a monster of tremendous power, placing her in the center of a devastating war between human and otherworldly forces.” (Image Comics)

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WEEK TWO:

Sputnik Sweetheart by Haruki Murakami | “A college student, identified only as “K,” falls in love with his classmate, Sumire. But devotion to an untidy writerly life precludes her from any personal commitments — until she meets Miu, an older and much more sophisticated businesswoman.” (from the back cover of Sputnik Sweetheart)

The Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang, art by Sonny Liew | “[The Shadow Hero is] the story of Hank Chu, a mild-mannered Chinese American teenager growing up in a fictional 1930’s Chinatown.  Hank wants nothing more than to work in his family’s grocery store, but his mother has more ambitious plans.  She wants him to embody the excitement of their new country.” (from Gene Yang’s website)

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WEEK THREE:

The Geek Feminist Revolution by Kameron Hurley | “The book collects dozens of Hurley’s essays on feminism, geek culture, and her experiences and insights as a genre writer, including “We Have Always Fought,” which won the 2014 Hugo for Best Related Work. The Geek Feminist Revolution will also feature several entirely new essays written specifically for this volume.” (Amazon)

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, art by Robert Hack | “On the eve of her sixteenth birthday, the young sorceress Sabrina Spellman finds herself at a crossroads, having to choose between an unearthly destiny and her mortal boyfriend, Harvey. But a foe from her family’s past has arrived in Greendale, Madame Satan, and she has her own deadly agenda.” (from Archie Comics)

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WEEK FOUR:

Carry On by Rainbow Rowell | “Simon Snow is the worst Chosen One who’s ever been chosen. That’s what his roommate, Baz, says. And Baz might be evil and a vampire and a complete git, but he’s probably right. Half the time, Simon can’t even make his wand work, and the other half, he sets something on fire. His mentor’s avoiding him, his girlfriend broke up with him, and there’s a magic-eating monster running around wearing Simon’s face. Baz would be having a field day with all this, if he were here—it’s their last year at the Watford School of Magicks, and Simon’s infuriating nemesis didn’t even bother to show up.” (from Rainbow Rowell’s website)

Paper Girls by Brian K. Vaughan | “In the early hours after Halloween of 1988, four 12-year-old newspaper delivery girls uncover the most important story of all time.” (Image Comics)

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WEEK FIVE:

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn | “On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary … Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn’t doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife’s head, but passages from Amy’s diary reveal the alpha-girl perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge. Under mounting pressure from the police and the media—as well as Amy’s fiercely doting parents—the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he’s definitely bitter—but is he really a killer?” (from Gillian Flynn’s website)

DC Comics: Bombshells by Marguerite Bennett, art by Marguerite Sauvage | “Learn the story behind this alternate reality where the Second World War is fought by superpowered women on the front lines and behind the scenes! It all begins with the stories of Batwoman, Wonder Woman and Supergirl.” (DC Comics)


Annnnnnd, that’s my list. Let’s see how this works out – I’m planning on continuing this challenge even when I am done! I am open to any and all recommendations – especially works by Asian/Asian-American writers and artists! If anyone would like to keep up with me and this challenge, follow me on other social media:

Twitter: @whaleesi
Instagram: @sambajuice

I’ll be using the hashtag #SamsSummerReading2k16. Or something. I’ll change it up.


*Monstress was highly recommended by my friend Ian. I purchased my copy at SDCC this year and got it signed by Liu and Takeda.

**Now that I think about it, a lot of the pairings I made were based on each book’s cover aesthetic.

favorite things this week #2

A cool new EP! A comic series that isn’t published by Marvel! A manga series I thought I’d never read again! Enjoy.


1. Hayley Kiyoko’s EP, This Side of Paradise (iTunes | Amazon | Google Play)

I haven’t bought an album so quickly in a long time. Hayley Kiyoko’s (of Lemonade Mouth fame and one of the stars of the up and coming 21st century adaptation of Jem and the Holograms) EP, This Side of Paradise is fun and fresh, bringing together a mix of vibrant, infectious beats and some really, really good synth. I came across the first single off the EP, “Girls Like Girls” on Tumblr last week, and fell in love with it. Here’s what Kiyoko says about the song and the meaning behind it:

I wrote the song a little over a year ago and it kind of started in a very lighthearted place. There are so many songs about guys stealing other guys’ girls and all that kind of stuff so I just thought it’d be a really fun song where a girl steals another guy’s girl. I just loved that confident perspective that I feel like isn’t really out there as much. – Hayley Kiyoko (x)

Looooooooove it. The video is also very aesthetically pleasing (with soft, warm color palettes) and feels very Sofia Coppola-y. As of now, it has more than a million views on YouTube – a great success for Kiyoko as it was her first time co-directing a music video. Another great song on the EP (but let’s be honest, everything on it is great) is “This Side of Paradise” – the EP’s namesake. Please do check out her music! You won’t regret it.

HIGHLIGHTS: Already mentioned above, but I am so in love with the Sofia Coppola aesthetic – female centric, soft palettes (those warm tones woooow), even the song (“Girls Like Girls”) seemed like it could be in The Bling Ring or something. I don’t know, man, I love it.

2. Alex + Ada by Sarah Vaughn and Jonathan Luna, published by Image Comics

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I was looking for comics to add to my “Comics Wish List” on Amazon two weeks ago and decided I should branch out and read/purchase comics that aren’t published by Marvel. I’ve been interested in Image Comics’ lineup for quite sometime. My roommate, Ivy, introduced me to The Wicked + The Divine (which deserves a post all on its own when I get my own copies of the first two volumes), and I was hooked. I wanted to read more from this publisher, because they are pretty much the Netflix of comic publishers — and I love Netflix. (I will explain this some other time.)

Alex + Ada is set in the future where robots and artificial intelligence are essentially a part of our everyday lives. Alex is your average joe (…but in the future) who is going through the motions of his everyday life after a pretty devastating breakup. For his birthday, his grandmother bequeaths him with the latest in realistic androids, a Tanaka X5. Androids in the future pretty much eat, sleep, and can do the things normal people do, but they have more restrictions due to a massacre that occurred at an AI factory, Nexware, wherein an android killed people. Alex is a bit wary because, a) yeah, there was a massacre and androids are kind of scary when sentient, b) androids are not necessarily good company because they are androids.

I’m not going to spoil too much, but he realizes that she is definitely more than a robot and should make her own decisions, and he ultimately makes a decision that will change his and her life forever.

The art is extremely simple and beautiful, and explores what it really means to be human/real. I finished the entire first volume in less than 20 minutes because I was hooked. I’m definitely going to buy the second volume when my local comic book store puts it on the shelves.

COOL ANECDOTE TIME: Sarah Vaughan, one of the authors of the series, is married to Bryan K. Vaughan, writer of Saga, another fantastic series published by Image. ALSO, special shout out to the staff of my local Comics ‘N’ Stuff – y’all are great. 

3. Naruto Gaiden (Read on MangaMint

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, a young girl named Samantha Andico told herself that she wouldn’t get sucked back into Naruto. Well, fast forward many moons later and here she is, reading Naruto again and nitpicking at it even though she hasn’t read the manga or watched the anime since she was 15. She will forever be Naruto trash. The end.

Just kidding. Well, I’m not kidding about the part where I kinda stopped reading Naruto for about six years. I did stop. I used to be extremely obsessed with anime and manga – and hey, that’s not a bad thing at all – but I stepped out of that phase, mainly because it seemed like Naruto wouldn’t end any time soon. I think I stopped reading during the arc after Sasuke forms Team Taka. Damn, that was a long time ago. Well, anyway, I found out that the series ended last fall, so I read the last chapter for nostalgia’s sake and cried like a baby (see my Parks & Rec finale post for more on this), got mad at things, thought of different ways I would have ended the series, and yeah, I basically went through all the motions one would after the end of a series that played a huge role in their life. And then I found out Naruto Gaiden was a thing and freaked out because it was a next generation thing (DAMN IT, KISHIMOTO, DID YOU GO ON FANFICTION.NET AND STEAL IDEAS FROM UNSUSPECTING FANS?) and of course, as I am a complete sucker for next generation stories and because I suck, I started reading it.

Basically, Gaiden focuses a lot on the next generation while still giving us little glimpses of our favorite characters and what they’re up to. Naruto is Hokage (finally), Sasuke is a dad (uh, I don’t even know what Sasuke is doing), Sakura is still a badass ninja and also a mom, everyone is married to each other (see “Highlights” section below), blah, blah, blah. For some reason, Konohagakure has become a lot like our world. They have cell phones. They have computers and tablets. What? I was mostly sucked back into this mess because of Sasuke, Sakura, and their daughter, Salad (a.k.a. Sarada. I just like calling her Salad) and the unnecessary drama Kishimoto has drawn up for the three of them. God, I love drama. Read to find out what happens next! Yeah! Believe it!

HIGHLIGHTS/WEIRD STUFF: I don’t even know what to put here. Oh, wait: a funny thing happened while I was writing this blurb. After typing Sasuke’s name for the first time in this post (paragraph three, to be exact), the inevitable squiggly red line of doom appeared under his name. I right clicked it and one of the spell check options was “Seasick”. I can never un-see that now. Also, InoSai. What the heck? I also read a very cute short about Akamaru and Kiba from Akamaru’s point of view. It’s gold. He says “F*** cats, I am a dog!” at one point in the one shot. While I do not endorse animals degrading each other, that line was pure gold. Good job, translators! Also, if you’re a fan of the manga, check out Kishimoto Masashi’s “Uzumaki Naruto: Illustration Book” – it was published earlier this year. I don’t think it has been released in the U.S. yet, but I managed to nab a copy at Anime Expo last week!

Also, I started re-reading Naruto again because according to my brother, I missed a lot. Oops. 


NEXT TIME: Fandom and the Pursuit of Passion / Anime Expo Day 1 Recap