NetGalley Top Reads – August

I was typing up reviews for my recent NetGalley DRCs and my partner asked me when was I going to start getting paid for doing this. I laughed and said something pithy about the work being its own reward. I tried to explain that the free copies of the books I was getting are sort of payment in kind and that I do this because it is FUN and I LIKE it and ISN’T THAT ENOUGH?

I think my partner could see we were veering dangerously close to the edge of one of my famous anti-capitalism rants, conceded the point and left me to my writing. I’m not upset at his suggestion; I just view it as a reflection of the time and world we find ourselves living in. Millennials aren’t encouraged to just have fun, everything we do must be monetized into a side hustle or gig, otherwise what’s even the point?

I refuse to allow my hobbies to be commodified any longer; I have already lost too many things I used to love doing to the grind of capitalism and the endless pursuit to make a buck. But I digress.

August has been a prolific month for me in terms of reading NetGalley DRCs. Several of my requests came through, and I even had a “Wish” granted* for the first time (*When there are no Request or Read Now buttons available for a book on NetGalley, members have the option to “wish” for it, indicating to the publisher that they are interested in accessing it. Publishers can “grant wishes” to randomly selected members, allowing them to read a title.)

Here are my top four picks for the month out of the twenty or so titles that I read in August.

  1. A River’s Gifts, Patricia Newman
  2. Dungeons & Dragons: Dungeon Club: Roll Call, Molly Knox Ostertag
  3. Braiding Sweetgrass for Young Adults, Robin Wall Kimmerer; Monique Gray Smith
  4. Cryptid Club, Sarah Andersen

The first three titles in this list feature positive Indigenous representation! Let’s dive in:

A River’s Gifts: The Mighty Elwha River Reborn

Miigweetch NetGalley, Lerner Publishing Group, and Millbrook Press for the DRC.

This is a non-fiction graphic novel that details the history of the Elwha River in the land currently known as Washington state, USA. However, describing this book in such a simplistic way is an injustice to all that the author and illustrator have achieved. I was impressed at the skillful storytelling that unfolded on the pages. The artwork is beautiful. 

The author’s foreword says that this is not a sad story, however: this book made me cry. I don’t mean that to be dramatic or edgy or to convey some sense of performative nonsense. I literally teared up while I read these pages, and there’s a good reason for it. The forcible removal of the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe, known as the Strong People, from their ancestral homelands and the environmental destruction that followed, is a history all-too familiar to myself and other Indigenous peoples of the world. Fortunately, this story had a happy ending and I closed the book feeling hopeful for the future. 

The art is gorgeous and highly stylized; it feels complementary to the subject matter. I recommend this book for all audiences, but especially middle/high school aged readers studying the environment or Native American/First Nations history. This is a five star read and I highly recommend it to everyone!

Dungeons & Dragons: Dungeon Club: Roll Call by Molly Knox Ostertag

Miigweetch to NetGalley and HarperCollins Children’s Books/HarperAlley for the DRC.

I’m a fan of author Molly Knox Ostertag’s other works, so I came into this book with big expectations. It did not disappoint! The story centers on the friendship between two 8th graders, Jess and Liv, and their love for the game Dungeons & Dragons (D&D). Liv wants to start a D&D club at school to recruit players to their campaign, however Jess is reluctant. When known nerd Tyler joins the club, things get messy fast!

This was an excellent middle grade novel about navigating bullies, social relationships, and other complicated situations/feelings. I LOVED that Jess is Diné and overall the cast of characters is very diverse. Jess is being raised by her dad after her mom abandoned their family when Jess was three years old, and I thought the story did a nice job of exploring this situation and Jess’s reaction to it. 

The art was excellent and fit the story well. I liked the fantasy sequences when the kids are acting out their D&D campaign. Everything is clean, bright, and easy to look at. There’s a logical flow to the panels and even people who don’t normally read graphic novels can easily follow along. Fans of ND Stevenson and the Lumberjanes series should enjoy this book. I recommend this to anyone who likes wholesome stories about friendship, as well as D&D lovers.

Braiding Sweetgrass for Young Adults 

Miigweetch NetGalley and Zest Books for sending this book for review consideration. All opinions are my own.

I am Indigenous and have been hearing about the original version of this book since before it was published. “Braiding Sweetgrass” has been recommended to me numerous times by numerous sources (it was even selected for my friend’s church book club!), nevertheless, I just never quite got around to reading it. When I saw this version for young adults, I jumped at the chance to read it and I have not been disappointed. 

The book is beautifully illustrated and the ideas are moving, powerful, and perhaps most importantly, accessible. The author does a fantastic job of breaking these big ideas down into digestible bits that anyone can understand and begin to engage with. The illustrations are gorgeous and provide good context to the text. 

I recommend this book to anyone seeking to understand Indigenous ways of knowing, environmentalists, and young people in general because the world they are inheriting is literally on fire and this might be the survival handbook they need to make it into the next future.

Cryptid Club

Miigweetch NetGalley and Andrews McMeel Publishing for sending this book for review consideration. All opinions are my own.

I am a fan of Sarah Andersen and devoured “Fangs” so I was eager to dive into her latest offering. Her art style is adorable and instantly recognizable. “Cryptid Club” is a cute comic collection about, you guessed it, cryptids. The classic big hitters, such as the Loch Ness Monster and BigFoot, are represented, along with a few others that I preemptively Googled while I read (I didn’t realize there was a handy-dandy GLOSSARY at the end of the book so I needn’t have bothered.) Fresno Nightcrawlers and the Flatwoods Monster in particular were new to me, although I found myself immediately vibing with the Flatwoods Monster.

This is a quick, funny read. Each page is presented as a stand-alone comic, although the cryptid characters do interact with each other in various panels. [For this reason I think this would make a great bathroom reader]. I recommend this book to fans of Sarah Andersen (duh!) and others who devour one-shot comic collections, as well as cryptid lovers (or cryptid haters, I truly feel like there is something on offer for everyone here).

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