Mini Reviews: Graphic Novels

Mini Reviews: Graphic Novels
I borrowed a bunch of graphic novels from the library (read all about that here) and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed getting stuck into them. Here are my thoughts!

Coraline by Neil Gaiman & P. Craig Russell
I must confess that I’ve never read Neil Gaiman’s Coraline, but I have seen the adaptation and have been curious about how it’d work as a graphic novel. As it turns out, it’s wonderfully creepy. I expected Coraline to have bright blue hair and the story to be as whimsical as it is in the film, but the graphic novel is more realistic. I don’t think button eyes and the Other Mother will ever stop being creepy. P. Craig Russell’s illustrations capture the weirdness perfectly!

Blankets by Craig Thompson
Blankets had been on my wishlist for years. I knew it was a coming-of-age story, but I wasn’t prepared for how gritty it could be. The story of young Craig Thompson and his little brother was both bleak and poignant. The story becomes more hopeful as Craig grows older and falls in love for the first time. Even though the religious aspect was a little too heavy for me, Blankets is full of lovely cinematic panels and gorgeous illustrations.

El Deafo by Cece Bell
El Deafo is one of the best graphic novels I’ve read, about Cece Bell growing up with a severe hearing impairment in the 80s after becoming ill. El Deafo is beautifully illustrated and the story is fantastic. Cece shows us what it’s like to not only be unable to hear what’s being said but understand what’s being said. From the difficulties of making friends – especially best friends – to discovering the amazing Phonic Ear, this is a remarkable story about growing up. Cece now has superpowers: El Deafo, Listener for All!

Phonogram, Vol 2: The Singles Club by Kieron Gillen & Jamie McKelvie
Before I loved books, I loved music. In The Singles Club, each character gets their own comic, telling the story of one night in a dance club, in a world where music is magic – and they are all “phonomancers”. It’s a little odd and I didn’t love all the characters’ stories, but I enjoyed the bubbly Penny B and her love of dancing, The Pipettes, and beautiful boy Marc, who can’t get over his ex. It’s not a favourite, but a fun concept all the same.

The Property by Rutu Modan and translated by Jessica Cohen
I love coming across books I didn’t know about yet end up loving, but it rarely happens. The Property is the tale of Regina Segal and her granddaughter Mica, who return to Warsaw to get back the family home that was lost during the Second World War. The Property is an emotional tale of heritage and family secrets, but with a sense of humour too. I picked it up because I’m intrigued by World War II stories but I got much more: an emotional graphic novel that I continued to think about long after I put it down.

Ghost World by Daniel Clowes
Ghost World is the story of Enid and Becky, two best friends growing up and growing apart. It’s hailed as “a must for any self-respecting comics fan’s library”. Perhaps it’s because I wasn’t a teen in 90s USA, or perhaps I because I just wasn’t like these particular teens, but I found them too pretentious and unpleasant to appreciate what happened to them. Although I enjoyed the occasional panel, the story and artwork didn’t work for me. I welcome graphic novels about what it’s like to be a teenage girl, but Ghost World sadly isn’t one of them.

Have you read any of these graphic novels?

From My Bookshelves / Graphic Novels

El Deafo

From My Bookshelves / Graphic Novels

The Singles Club

From My Bookshelves / Graphic Novels

Coraline

From My Bookshelves / Graphic Novels

Blankets

Frame illustrations designed by Freepik.

Book Review: This One Summer by Jillian Tamaki & Mariko Tamaki

Book Review: This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki & Jillian Tamaki

Shelved: Young adult fiction (contemporary, graphic novel)
Buy: Wordery
More: Goodreads
Challenge: Hooray! It’s Summer – #3

This One Summer was the third book I picked up for my (unofficial) summer reads challenge. I spontaneously bought it a few months ago while paying a visit to Foyles, Charing Cross Road.  I love the large graphic novel section in the shop and I bought This One Summer along with Through the Woods – and I’m happy to say that I really enjoyed both!

I was expecting a cute and fluffy, picture perfect story about two girls and their summer friendship together in a beautiful beach cottage, enjoying the sun, sea and sand, but This One Summer was much grittier and intense.

This One Summer is about the sort of friendship that’s not day-to-day – Rose and her younger friend Windy only see each other every summer. Naturally, they have grown apart over the year and are no longer interested in the things they enjoyed the  summer before. Windy wants to dance, drink pop and build forts while Rose wants to talk about her summer crush and watch grisly horror films, but the two girls are determined to stay friends. Rose is also dealing with family drama and Awago Beach is no longer her refuge from life. In This One Summer, there’s talk of sexuality, sex, miscarriage, adoption, body image, misogyny and sexism, and depression, even if fleetingly. It’s a tough summer for Rose and This One Summer is a beautiful and evocative coming-of-age story about two girls growing up.

I adore graphic novels because they only take an hour or so to read, but the stunning artwork in This One Summer means that you feel like you’ve spent the summer with the girls and gone through what they have. Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki – two Canadian cousins – make the perfect author/illustrator partnership. Jillian Tamaki’s artwork is gorgeous. Many of the spreads are utterly beautiful and the way the artwork transitions between scenes is wonderful. I could almost hear the sea at Awago Beach; the traffic outside my window was transformed.

Join Rose and Windy on an unforgettable trip and discover how one summer can change everything. There aren’t many young adult contemporary graphic novels out there, but This One Summer shows that there should be.

Published: 6th May 2014
Publisher: First Second
Pages: 320

Book Review: This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki & Jillian Tamaki

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Book Review: Through the Woods by Emily Carroll

Book Review: Through the Woods by Emily Carroll

Shelved: Young adult fiction (graphic novel, fantasy, horror, short stories)
Buy: Hive
More: Goodreads

‘It came from the woods. Most strange things do.’

I was in a bit of a reading slump (it happens to all of us!) and wanted super quick read to get me back into the reading spirit. I picked up one of the graphic novels I bought recently, Through the Woods, and read it in my garden in one sitting, lazing about in the sunshine. As it happens, it was the perfect juxtaposition. I couldn’t have handled reading Through the Woods in the winter – it’s chilling!

Through the Woods delivers five beautifully dark stories written and illustrated by the very talented Emily Carroll. It is gloriously enchanting from the very beginning. As I’m writing this, I cannot stop peeking at the front cover every so often – the typography, the vivid colours, and the little blue figure walking into the woods. It captures your imagination before you’ve even begun.

I delved into Through the Woods not quite knowing what to expect and was greeted with five stories quite unlike each other. Some evoke memories of Grimm’s fairy tales and some feel more contemporary, more Gaiman-esque, but each is elevated by the haunting illustrations. In the (very few) graphic novels I’ve read, the illustrations are consisted throughout, but Emily Carroll adapts her style to fit the tone of each story. A favourite of mine is Our Neighbor’s House – a creepy yet gorgeous story that feels classic – and the eerie A Lady’s Hands Are Cold. As the stories are left open-ended, the reading experience very much depends on how the reader interprets the tales.

Through the Woods is a wonderful graphic novel – and one where the story telling easily matches the illustrations in quality. I haven’t decided whether I’m brave enough to lend it out…

Published: 15th July 2015 (US) 7th May 2015 (UK)
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books (US) Faber & Faber (UK)
Pages: 128

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Book Review: Friends With Boys by Faith Erin Hicks

Book Review: Friends With Boys by Faith Erin Hicks

Shelved: Young adult fiction (contemporary, graphic novel)
Buy: Hive
More: Goodreads

I borrowed Friends With Boys from Debbie while I was loaning her Relish – My Life in the Kitchen, one of my favourite graphic novels. Friends With Boys is the first graphic novel I’ve actually read since Relish nearly a year ago. I was particularly looking forward to it because it’s part contemporary – about a teenager called Maggie who used to be homeschooled until her mother left home suddenly, and now she has to find a way to navigate the treacherous world of high school – and part paranormal – Maggie is haunted by a ghost in the local cemetery she visits. I adore all things YA contemporary, whether novels, movies or TV series, and so I’d love to see more graphic novels in a similar vein. I’ve just bought This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki & Jillian Tamaki and there’s a great list over on Women You Should Know.

I very much enjoyed the coming-of-age aspect of Friends With Boys, about the awkwardness of growing up and wanting to fit in but not really knowing how. Maggie’s always had her older brothers for emotional and academic support but now she’s alone and has to fend for herself – until she meets Alistair and Lucy, two school outsiders. I love that the artwork in young adult graphic novels perfectly captures what it is to be young. Maggie is authentic in her shyness and teenage awkwardness, and this is depicted wonderfully. Friends With Boys is a spirited story about growing up, making friends and starting somewhere new, and it touches on family relationships and the loneliness that comes with losing someone close to you. Although the majority of graphic novels are fantasy, illustrations enable the reader to see each character’s emotions quite clearly, in a way that’s incredibly colourful and vivid despite the black and white lines.

Friends With Boys has an unexpected paranormal twist that all becomes clear towards the end, and allows our protagonists to be a little adventurous, although I would have been happy with a completely ‘realistic’ story too! Friends With Boys is an enjoyable foray into the small but diverse selection of coming-of-age graphic novels. Faith Erin Hicks is illustrating Rainbow Rowell’s upcoming fantasy graphic novel and I can’t wait to see it!

Published: 28th February 2012
Publisher: First Second Books
Pages: 224

Book Review: Relish – My Life in the Kitchen by Lucy Knisley

Book Review: Relish – My Life in the Kitchen by Lucy Knisley

Shelved: Non-fiction (graphic novel, memoir)
Buy: Hive
More: Goodreads

In the spirit of a foodie Bank Holiday weekend (I blogged about Penguin’s Great Food series yesterday), it seemed only appropriate to start my review of Relish: My Life in the Kitchen too. I first came across this foodie graphic memoir when I saw that it had been nominated for a Goodreads Choice Award in 2013. I love books and I love food, so I added it to my wishlist straight away. It wasn’t until last month that I finally got around to buying it, after a trip to Gosh! Comics with Debbie. We had never visited Gosh! before (neither of us have read many graphic novels or comics) and were looking forward to it. We loved the huge curated display table as soon as you set foot through the door, and this is where we found Relish (Debbie bought Friends with Boys). We both definitely want to go back, especially because the staff were super friendly.

I loved Relish as soon as I started reading it. It’s 29-year-old Lucy’s graphic memoir of growing up surrounded by food and food lovers, from her chef mum’s home cooking to exotic foodie adventures on trips abroad – what food means to her and what food she particularly loves, and what memories they bring back. She says, ‘I can remember exactly the look and taste of a precious honey stick, balanced between my berry-stained fingers, but my times tables are long gone, forgotten, in favour of better, tastier memories’. Lucy’s drawings are wonderful and colourful – an exquisite mix of food writing and delicious illustrations. You can’t really ask for more.

I relate to her because she’s a foodie, but not a food snob. She love artisan bread and good quality chocolate, but she won’t say no to McDonald’s or a packet of Oreos. (‘We wouldn’t be eating it if it didn’t taste good’). She writes so eloquently, but clearly, showing us how memories of food are memories of growing up, and how tasting all the different flavours – from home and from other cultures – is like no other experience. I craved so many different kinds of food while reading Relish, including food I’ve never even tried (where can I find a tomatillo or honey sticks?). At the end of each chapter, there’s an easy-to-follow tasty recipe to make one of the foods featured in that chapter, such as the best chocolate chip cookies and sushi rolls. It was perfect for bedtime reading and it made me want to pick up more graphic novels – and eat more food!

I can’t wait to pick up her travelogue, French Milk, next and her new book, An Age of License: A Travelogue, is published in September. She also posts lots of lovely things on Tumblr.

Published: 26th April 2013
Publisher: First Second
Pages: 192

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