One of the first adult works of historical fiction that I ever read was Susan Vreeland's THE PASSION OF ARTEMISIA. So, naturally, when I saw that a graphic novel biography of Artemisia Gentileschi was coming out, I had to have it. I mean, really.
I was looking at some of the reviews and saw some people taking issue with the art style and the content.
First, the art style is somewhat simplistic. It is done with line drawing, as you would with a ball point pen. I really enjoyed this, personally, although I will say that this book is very text-heavy. In fact, it is basically an illustrated textbook, and dense with information. Sometimes this can be difficult to consume since the line shading does make the pages "busy," and it can be hard to focus on any particular thing since so much is going on. I personally liked the art style a lot, but your mileage may vary.
Regarding the dark content, well. That's true. This book is set during the Italian Renaissance, when Italy was comprised of many city-states, some of which were ruled over by corrupt and brutal families who would stoop to violence in order to assure that they maintained their foothold in power. It's definitely not for those faint of heart. In fact, some of the horrific scenes from Game of Thrones borrow heavily from actual historical events from Renaissance Italy, so you can only imagine, I'm sure, the horrors in this book.
Women were not respected at all during this time, and many people saw Artemisia as vulnerable and fair game. Her rape and the subsequent trial were awful, and the artist did a good job depicting how upsetting this was (it almost certainly inspired her painting, Judith Slaying Holofernes). Despite that, she fared better than most, despite being tortured under interrogation, and the fact that she was able to accomplish so much and become so famous in a time when women were still mostly regarded as chattel is only testament to her influence and her brilliance, especially in a period of such adversity.
I liked how this wasn't just a biography, but also an exploration of the changes occurring (quite rapidly) in Renaissance Italy, a taste of the art scene and some of the key players, as well as a bit of a background on the wars between the protestants and the Catholics, and the in-house fighting among the various city-states of Italy before they were united. You really get a solid feel for the zeitgeist of Renaissance Italy and how all of those factors influenced Artemisia's style and life. That's way cool.
Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review!
I wasn't really sure what to expect with this one but I ended up liking it a lot. GOOD TALK is a graphic novel memoir told in conversations. The art is static, set against photographs or hyper-realistic drawings, and at first this kind of felt lazy to me and I wasn't sure I liked this style, but I realized it was probably so the art wouldn't be a distraction from the text panels since that was the important stuff. The conversations are mostly between Mira and her young son, Z. Z has lots of questions, especially about what it means to be biracial and brown in a post-9/11, post-Trump political climate, where so many people in the United States still have biases.
One of the things I ended up loving about this book is the raw honesty. Mira's dating life shines light on a lot of the difficulties that women of color face in the dating world, especially women who are also LGBT+. She also talks about colorism, the difference between racism and bigotry, and privilege. Even though she loves her husband, they have to have a lot of conversations because he is white and a man, and there are some things about her world that he will never fully understand, not without having to stop and think about it, because part of privilege is that it allows you to glide past a lot of problems that are deeply entrenched into the institutional framework of our country, being the status quo.
I thought Z asked interesting questions. Kids don't have a filter or a shame button, so sometimes they end up asking some pretty brutal, uncomfortable questions that aren't fun or easy to answer. I actually think that can be a good thing, though. Mira seems to agree, although at times even she struggled with how to answer, because she wants to protect her son, even as she wants him to take pride in his identity without feeling the shame of not being "enough" that so many people-- either consciously or unconsciously-- try to project onto people who look, speak, or act different. I loved both of Mira's parents, and I thought the scenes and dialogues that arose from her husband's parents voting for Trump hit hard. How can you vote for someone who is totally against the people you love? It's a question that has an easy answer, and yet millions of Americans did that exact thing.
I definitely recommend this to people who would like to broaden their minds and think more critically about privilege, multiracial or biracial families, intersectionality, and parenting. There's a lot of really valuable ideas in here, and it's delivered in an easy-to-read format that manages to convey pretty complex concepts in an easily understandable way. The ending, with the letter to her son and the photo of him as a baby next to a paper announcing Obama's win, was especially poignant.
Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review!
Hello, friends. Did you know that I am a sucker for Greek mythology? Because I am. When I was a kid, my mother used to read me stories from D'Aulaires' Book of Greek Myths. And as obsessed as I was with Ancient Egypt (very), there was something incredibly appealing about the Greek pantheon, and how pettishly, foolishly human they were in foible and flaw, alike. I am by no means an expert in antiquities, but I know enough that I have an internal rubric of accuracy where 1 is Disney's Hercules and 10 is something like Mary Renault or Madeline Miller, depending on how much you allow for artistic license (I do).
I got A THOUSAND SHIPS from a co-worker (perhaps you are noticing a pattern in my latest slew of books, eh?). I'm enough of a nerd that when I heard the word bronze in tandem with comic, my first thought was "The Bronze Age of Comics," which spanned from the 1970s through the 1980s, and I was envisioning a "best of" anthology of panels from artists like Stan Lee or Jack Kirkby. But no, this is about the literal bronze age in Ancient Greece: a comic-book reimagining of The Iliad.
I had to read The Iliad in school and did not like it. Granted, I was only 15 or so, so the thought of a bunch of sweaty dudes duking it out over a girl they thought was hot felt a bit too "been there, done that." Plus, the military stuff. The military stuff was boring. Later, in college, I was forced to read it again, and I also watched some of the television adaptations, Troy (2004) and Helen of Troy (2003), and those actually made me like The Iliad more, because, like Shakespeare, it wasn't intended to be read; it was told, dramatically, and so seeing it on screen brought some of the magic back, I think.
A THOUSAND SHIPS details the prologue tothe famous battle of the Greeks vs. the Trojans, setting the scene, introducing us to the characters, and basically providing context for why the battle started (there were many reasons). The abduction of Helen was unarguably the catalyst, but it wasn't like the Greeks or the Trojans were biffles before that, either. I really liked the story-telling and the dialogue in this book. I thought the writers did a good job condensing the important parts, and used their medium to their advantage. Likewise, the art - the art. It was phenomenal. The characters' faces were so expressive and nuanced, and I loved that the artists actually made them look ethnic - I can't tell you how irritating it is to see illustrations of the Greeks as blonde, pasty white people. Excuse me.
I saw some reviews complaining about the removal of the gods themselves from this retelling - and yes, that is somewhat true. The gods are never illustrated and make no direct appearances in this book. However, their presence is still felt, and we encounter many of the demigods in this book, like nymphs and half-human progeny. I actually felt like this made the book feel more realistic, personally. It made this feel more mythological/religious and less fantastical to have the gods unseen.
If you're a fan of graphic novels and Greek mythology, this is a great book, honestly. Between the art and the condensed retelling of the story itself, I thought the creators did a great job. This would be a great tool for kids who are reading The Iliad and don't get it, because it provides excellent visuals for what's going on and why. I wish I'd had a copy of this floating around when I was getting quizzed on it back in the day, but hey, it was a whole lot of fun to read now, too. :)
What did I just read? I've enjoyed Sarah Vaughn's other works and was really keen on seeing her interpretation of a fantasy novel. Sadly, this was so derivative: 1 part Star Wars, 1 part Avatar: Last Airbender, 1 part creepy fanfiction where Daenerys Targaryen has sex with her dragons. What, dragon sex? you ask. Oh, yes. The hero and heroine in this book have super powers because one of their ancestors got down and dirty with a dragon. Boom-chicka-wow, I so did not need to know that.
Tair is a slave in the coldest part of the Empire and Rion is a slave from the hottest part of the empire. The book is told in three parts, and parts one and two are both about each character's escape - which unfortunately is boring because both of their escapes are very similar and a lot of the dialogue is literally just panting from exertion. Part three is where the interesting stuff finally starts to happen, by which I mean the showstopper we all came here for: MAGIC. But just when the story finally seems like it might start picking up steam, it ends. On a cliffhanger. Of course.
ETERNAL EMPIRE falls into the classic trap of bad fantasy: it acts like we should care about these characters we have only just met and have no reason to be otherwise invested in. All we know about Rion and Tair is that they are slaves working in hellish conditions and they both have special eyes. Re the hellish conditions: yeah, that sucks, but why should we care about them more than any of the others? Especially the ones that, oh, you know, died or lost limbs. And the special eyes and special powers stuff totally came out of left field. Without proper foreshadowing, it feels very Mary Sue-ish.
I also didn't like the art. It falls into uncanny valley territory and looks very amateurish, like something you might see done on MS Paint. When I initially saw the rating for this book, I felt bad and wanted to like it so I could boost the rating for what I hoped was a misunderstood work, but no. The reviewers were right on the mark with this one. ETERNAL EMPIRE is bad.
I got this book from a coworker and while reading it, I couldn't help but feel like I was missing part of the story. Well, that's because I was. My dumb self couldn't be bothered to read the #4 on the spine. Oops. I was lucky enough to read the first vol. as an ARC a few years ago, though, and remembered the basic premise. An STD called "The Beauty" turns the people afflicted with it into gorgeous specimens. The only drawback is that after about two years, they die. Horribly.
In vol. 4, a journalist is looking into The Beauty and a pharmaceutical company called Abericorp that is trying to repackage and market The Beauty like it's a spa treatment and not a disease. Abericorp is headed by a horrible woman that one of the characters calls "Granny Menegle" and that really isn't too far off, considering some of the stunts she pulls in this book. And then there's her henchman, Mr. Calaveras, who makes Two Face look like a kid at the fair with some adorable face paint.
This book was okay. I feel like all of the conspiracy stuff was a bit of a departure from the first book, and made it feel like one of those claustrophobic early 2000s sci-fi movies following in the wake of The Matrix. Part of that is probably because I missed books 2-3, but I still felt like this book didn't deliver on enough of the answers and also felt far too short.
I got this from a co-worker and I'm not sure how I feel about it. On the one hand, I think the author's drawing style is really cute, in the same vein of simplified yet charming styles as artists like Sarah Andersen and Allie Brosh. On the other hand, I'm really freaking sick of the stereotypes of introverts being rude and dysfunctional AF and how people try to portray such antisocial behavior as being "cute" and "unique." I'm saying this as an introvert, FYI, because I've had people come onto my reviews where I make similar complaints and say, "YOU DON'T UNDERSTAND." Shut up, please, because, yes, I do. Because I used to be like that - when I was a teenager, I had social phobia (different from introversion) and being around people would freak me out. The idea of ordering something from a cashier was something that would give me anxiety, and school reports used to make me feel physically ill. I am also an introvert but those are two separate things. Social phobia can be, and probably should be, treated, because social interactions are an integral part of how we function in society. Introversion, however, is just the way somebody's brain is wired, and an element of one's personality. I'm an introvert but now I love to go to parties and give speeches and other things that used to make me want to dive under the nearest table, but afterwards, I need alone time to recharge. I'm happy being alone, but also enjoy spending time with others. I just prefer "low-key."
My point is that a lot of these #IntrovertLifeForever artists lump things like social phobia and anxiety in with introversion, and I don't appreciate that because 1. it makes introversion seem like it's a mental health disorder (which it's not, although I am sure that such connections may exist in some people), and 2. these books frequently make fun of extroverts and portray them in a very negative light. Introversion is not a mental health disorder, and it does not mean that you are rude or afraid of dealing with people. It simply means that social situations deplete you faster and that you need to spend a lot of alone time to recharge. In one of my psychology classes, we learned that this is because people who are introverted have higher stimulation thresholds (I think it was for dopamine), so they get overwhelmed faster than people with lower stimulation thresholds (i.e. introverts), who need more stimulation to get that same rush, and actually feel pretty crummy without all that engagement. And while I am all for normalizing mental health disorders, I don't think it's good to say that the negative behaviors that come from some of these are totally acceptable and okay. Some of the behaviors in this book were not functional, and normalizing that behavior (separate from the individual, mind you), in my opinion, is problematic. I also don't really get the "us vs. them" mentality of introverts vs. extroverts. Again, some extroverts exhibit problematic behaviors but that's not usually a direct result of extroversion. I love my extrovert friends because they often encourage me to do things that are outside of my comfort zone that I may end up loving, like going on roller-coasters, trying out a new bar outside of my routine area, or entering a baking competition (all real examples, BTW). Do they sometimes overwhelm and annoy me? Yes. But do I resent them for it or think that they are bad people? No. That's just the way they are, and I can always just say, "No," if I don't feel like going on their latest madcap extrovert adventure. "Ten people, ten colors," as the Japanese say.
INTROVERT DOODLES falls into the trap of relying on stereotypes to portray introverts and extroverts. Some of the cartoons felt true - for example, the one about needing to recharge after a party and being secretly thrilled when plans get cancelled both hit home for me, and being stressed out about answering the phone - but others, like being mean and sarcastic to people who wanted to go out with her, throwing a temper tantrum about an office party, and acting like a mega-jerk to clueless extroverts rubbed me the wrong way. When my co-worker gave me this book, she said, "She's very grumpy," and I think that's a pretty accurate summation of the book. I wish introvert comics weren't written this way. We can be pleasant, sociable people, and some of us might get mistaken for extroverts (I do); we just need to recharge afterwards, and feel more comfortable when we're alone or in a small group. I'm tired of the stereotype of introverts being dysfunctional, rude, and self-centered people who do very irrational and nasty things when put into social situations. It's very uncomfortable and I think it gives people the wrong idea about introverts. :(
I'm sure you've seen Jacqueline Chen's art on the internet before. She's famous for her adorable chibi style bunnies, birds, kitties, and ghosts that are usually labeled with a positive, heart-warming message. One of the most popular ones I've seen floating around is the "sending virtual hug" one, although sadly a lot of people have altered it to remove her signature from the drawing. (Bad people! Shame! Artists need virtual hugs, too!)
When I saw LOADING PENGUIN HUGS on Netgalley, I recognized the cuddly, soft, squishy art style immediately and nearly tripped over myself in my haste to hit "request." I am so proud of this author for snagging a book deal because her art has often given me a small lift when I was having a bad day, and I often send her little drawings to friends who seem a little down, because how can you not smile at a happy little bunny who wants you to have a good day and thinks you're amazing?
The art in this book is great, and reminiscent of the Pusheen and Sarah's Scribbles comics in that while I'm sure some of these are featured on her websites, there are a couple new ones thrown in. All of the illustrations are full color and while I have the e-copy and can't speak to paper quality or anything fancy-shmancy like that, I really, really enjoyed (virtually) flipping through all these pages. Positivity is one of those messages that can sometimes get warped in the telling. People sometimes conflate self-care with license to be selfish, but self-care is about taking care of yourself and being your best self, which in turn shapes your relationships with the people around you for the better. Chibird totally gets that, and really underscores that positivity is a two-way process and that being a caring individual means loving yourself and the important people in your life just as fiercely.
I loved this book and wish I had a hard copy of it to cherish (the real one apparently comes with STICKERS - oh my god, I love stickers), but reading the e-copy of it was just as good. Trust me. I don't always endorse the books I receive as ARCs unequivocally, but when I do, they completely deserve it.
Thanks to Netgalley/the publisher for the review copy!
There are a lot of fun graphic novels about feminism coming out lately, like THE LITTLE BOOK OF FEMINIST SAINTS and DEAD FEMINISTS: HISTORIC HEROINES LIVING IN COLOR. I think this is great because graphic novels are a medium that are accessible to a wide range of ages (kids and adults), which makes them an excellent resource for classrooms and libraries. In terms of maturity levels, though, BRAZEN (as befitting its name), definitely seems like it's intended for older audiences, with depictions of nudity and some violence.
One of the best things about BRAZEN is how inclusive it is compared to the other two books of this type I was privileged enough to read. Both of the two former titles I mentioned included women of color, but I would say that a significant portion of the women represented in BRAZEN were not white. One of them was transgender and several were LGBT+.
When you do books like these, there is bound to be overlap with other similar titles, but I felt like Pénélope Bagieu went the extra mile to think about women who might not ordinarily be represented. Some of my favorites were Betty Davis (the singer and wife to Miles Davis - when I Googled her, Google asked me if I meant "Bette Davis," which I found upsetting), the singer who was ahead of her time and vastly underappreciated. There was Agnodice, whose effectiveness in medicine caused the law against women practicing medicine to be revoked in Ancient Greece. And there was Frances Glessner Lee, whose inclusion here delighted me because Vox recently did a video about the forensic dollhouses she built called "The dollhouses of death that changed forensic science."
I liked the vast majority of these stories but some of them were depressing, like the story of Katia and Maurice Krafft, or the Mirabel sisters. Those were thankfully few and far between, because it's sad to think about death being the endgame for exploring your dreams and passions and fighting for your rights, even though that is sometimes (sadly - and far, far too often) the case.
I'm giving this three stars because I wasn't a huge fan of the art style. The colors were interesting and I liked how the splash panels at the end of the chapters managed to pay homage to the women's personalities, achievements, and culture in the aggregate, but the bright colors and small font made it very difficult to read these comics. Also, there was this weird font that looked kind of like size 6 Arial in the panels for dialogue and descriptions which was at odds with the more detailed and elaborate font used outside the panels, and again, also made it very difficult to read.
If, however, you're interested in learning about some cool ladies (and are a fan of bright colors), this book is for you! I can see this being a great tool for classrooms and libraries as it inspires further research.
Thanks to Netgalley/the publisher for the review copy!
I was going to try to look up some funny memes for this review, but apparently typing "bear" and "sex" into Google search mostly just turns up a lot of gay porn. Go figure.
MY BOYFRIEND IS A BEAR is a graphic novel about a girl named Nora whose boyfriend is a literal bear. Nora has a lame job working as a call center associate for a phishing site. She has a long list of "douchey" ex-boyfriends guilty of crimes such as wearing pukka shells and suspenders (not together - each item was a crime particular to a unique individual), or wanting to issue spank in the bedroom. The fiends! With such cads on her dating history, it's only natural that she'd want to date a bear.
Nora met Bear when she was hiking with one of her nasty ex-boyfriends (who still works with her at the call center). He berated her for reading fashion magazines instead of real literature and Bear saw her burying them in shame. Bear followed her home to return the magazines, and in the vein of human-human relationships, Nora is flattered by this stalkery (predatory?) behavior. One of Nora's friends is 100% on board with Team Bear, but her other friend is like WTF are you doing. And after some thought, I'm afraid I'm on Team WTF Are You Doing, as well.
Bear and Nora's relationship is cute, and maybe if it kept up the whole platonic, anime vibe I could buy it. There's a pretty cute manga called Tuxedo Ginabout a boy whose spirit is reincarnated into a penguin after he is killed. But Bear is not a human cursed to live as a bear; Bear is an actual bear. This makes it especially weird when Bear does things like get a job(!), fixes things up around the house(!), or has sex with Nora(!!!!). The sex, thank God, is never on screen but it is hinted at multiple times, and I'd say that it was the elephant in the room, but that's not the case is it? (At least I hope not. What a threesome from hell that would be.)
Fun fact: bears have something called a baculum, which means that they have a literal bone in their boner. I'm not going to say anything else. You can just take a moment to think about that.
P.S. I resent the hipsters touting Jose Saramago in here being portrayed as the bad guys. Jose Saramago is awesome.
Thanks to Netgalley/the publisher for the review copy!
When I'm sick, the most comforting things for me are books and tea. So I'm parked in an armchair right now with a giant fleece blanket, a Big Gulp-sized cup of unsweetened iced tea, and a pile of books, trying not to feel so much like poop. What better way to do that than to work my way through a bunch of ARCs that aren't coming out until later this month? Ha-ha-*cough cough cough cough*-ha-*cough*-ha, suckers!
*cough* *cough* *blows nose*
I was really excited when I saw BIZARRE ROMANCE pop up on Netgalley because I really enjoyed THE TIME TRAVELER'S WIFE, even (especially!) if it was like Dr. Who meets TWILIGHT (and you might say to yourself, "There is no way that premise would work." WRONG!). I was excited to see what new and interesting ideas she would explore using graphic novels as her medium, with the assistance of the talented Eddie Campbell, whose surreal illustrations really complement the bizarre stories.
BIZARRE ROMANCE is an anthology-like collection, with each "chapter" being a different story. The problem with anthologies is that, unless they are carefully curated, there are always some stories that stand out way more than others and a couple that actually drag the collection down as a whole. One of the few anthology collections I have read that was close to perfect was John Scalzi's MINIATURES, and even that one ended on a sour note with a wtf-is-this finale.
Thursdays, Six to Eight p.m.: ☆☆☆☆☆
Comic format. This was easily one of my favorites in the collection. I'm a huge fan of fairytales and this one has an almost Bluebeard's Castle vibe to it, but there's a surprise twist that's actually quite funny.
The Composite Boyfriend: ☆☆
Prose format. The title illustration was amazing, which sadly only highlighted the mediocrity of the story itself. This short story gives off a pretentious, twee vibe that I really did not like.
Comic format. Wow, what a mouthful. This is a strange, surreal story that is clearly inspired by tales like Alice in Wonderland and Narnia, but the bittersweet ending makes it feel more adult.
Secret Life, with Cats: ☆½
Prose format. Ooh, I did not like this one at all. A creepy cat lady story? No, thank you! Also, this one ties into the "romance" theme only very peripherally. Definitely a detriment to the collection.
The Ruin of Grant Lowery: ☆☆☆☆
Comic format. After Thursdays, Six to Eight p.m., this was probably my second favorite in the collection. An old school fairy tale, where the fairies are manipulative and sneaky.
Girl on a Roof: ☆
Prose format. I hate giving this one a one-star, because it was the only LGBT story in the mix, but it was so boring, my eyes glazed over.
Jakob Wywialowski and the Angels: ☆☆☆
Comic format. Kind of a surreal story about angels invading somebody's attic. I liked it, in spite of its strangeness, although it sticks out because it isn't about romance.
At the Movies: ☆☆
Prose format. This one was forgettable but inoffensive.
Motion Studies: Getting Out of Bed: ☆☆☆☆½
Comic format. Cool short story about life drawing and photography. The art really makes it work.
The Wrong Fairy: ☆☆☆½
Prose format. One of the better prose stories in here. Like The Ruin of Grant Lowery, it's also about making bargains with fairies, but the fairies are nicer in this one. Nothing to do with romance, though.
Digging up the Cat: ☆½
Comic format. Literally what it sounds like. A seemingly autobiographical story of the author digging up her dead cat from the front yard of her old house to rebury it in front of her new house.
The Church of the Funnies: ☆☆
Prose format. Bizarre, also seemingly autobiographical story about art as religion. Not a fan.
Backwards in Seville: ☆☆☆
Comic format. One of the sadder stories in the mix, about a woman on a cruise with her elderly father. The topic is more about familial love and regret than romance.
As you can see, the stories done in comic format tended to be much better than the ones told in prose format, with a handful of exceptions. There were also quite a few stories that had little to nothing to do with romance, which made the anthology feel disorganized - particularly in the case of Digging Up the Cat and The Church of the Funnies, which took away from the surreal, fairytale-like theme.
Thanks to Netgalley/the publisher for the review copy!
Sometimes people send me books as gifts. This book was a spontaneous gift from my younger sister, along with a Deadpool key chain. Even though I'm pretty choosy about what I will and will not read, I do make exceptions for book gifts because if someone cares enough to send me something they think I'm going to love, I make an extra concentrated effort to read it.
The Nightmare Before Christmas came out when I was a really young kid, and while I liked it, it was a bit too dark and spooky for my taste. It had a revival in the early noughties, because of how well the premise synced up with emo culture. I used to have a Nightmare Before Christmas t-shirt with a split neck that I wore until it faded and stained beyond repair. I think it's a movie you appreciate more as an adult (or a teenager) than as a kid.
Here's why I like The Nightmare Before Christmas. A lot of teenagers who like weird stuff are ostracized by their peers and branded as "freaks." In a way, the people of Halloween Town are kind of like the anime fans and goths; people who don't look and act like other people and prefer darker things. They're not bad people - in their own way, most of them are actually quite kind - but many find them off-putting.
Jack feels a sort of malaise about his role as Pumpkin King. After years of celebrating Halloween, he's grown weary and the spookiness of the holiday has begun to wear on his soul. One day, while playing with his dog, he ends up in the middle of a forest that serves as a gateway to all the other holidays. The Christmas door appeals to him and he opens up and finds himself in the middle of a magical wonderland. The color palette completely changes. It's like when Dorothy opens the door of her cottage and finds herself in the middle of Technicolor Oz. For the first time in a while, Jack feels alive, and thinking this to be the answer to his ennui, he decides to replicate Christmas.
I think The Nightmare Before Christmas is a perfect allegory to teenage angst. Many teenage identities are superficial, and focused on labels and basic concepts, like "jock," "prep," or "outcast," and they think that their worth can be judged in physical, concrete terms like # of followers on social media, how many people find them attractive, or the amount of spending money they have per week. Maybe not all teenagers feel this way, but a lot do (and I'll admit it, I did). Depressed teens often find one or two flaws to focus on, and blame for their emotional state. They think, "If only I could change this one thing about myself, I would be happy..."
Jack decides to change himself and do something that is completely contrary to his nature. His friends humor him, but it's clear they have no idea what they are doing, and their attempt at Christmas is a total disaster. Happiness comes to Jack only when he accepts who he is, and learns that the people who care about him care about him for who he is, weirdness and all. It's a touching story that I think a lot of people (especially teenagers) can relate to, and it speaks to so many relevant teen issues like depression, angst, and wanting to find who you are in the maelstrom of an identity crisis.
This graphic novel seemed like a bit of a cash grab because it's literally just stills from the movie with dialogue pasted over it in comic book bubble format (yes, including songs - eye roll), but I actually really liked it. The photos are high quality and really let you appreciate the detail that went into this stop-motion movie. For example, I never realized before that Jack's dog, Zero, has a glowing nose with a Jack-o'-lantern face. It's so faint, you would never see it unless you paused very carefully. There's a whole bunch of other small, seemingly inconsequential details like that that were super fun.
If you liked the movie, this book is a nice thing to have for the glossy photographs, song lyrics, and fairly thorough recap of the storyline. I never would have picked it out for myself, but reading it made me feel curiously nostalgic for my high school emo self, and as an adult I was able to appreciate the story in a new way for how it reaches out to teens who are a part of the counterculture.
When I read the first volume of PERSEPOLIS, people told me that I had to explore this author's other work. Luckily, I bought volumes one and two of PERSEPOLIS together, so I could immediately jump from one to the other. While the first book primarily takes place in Iran during the Islamic Revolution and then, a few years later, during the Iraqi Invasion, the second book is about Marjane's coming of age in Austria: the place her parents decided to send her, where she would be safer from the war.
Marjane ends up in several places: friends' homes, a church (although she was thrown out for talking back to the nuns), hostels, even homeless on the streets. She writes about what it was like seeing a full grocery store after the scarcities in Iran, and the difficulty in living in a place where she didn't speak the language. She also writes about some of the racism she experienced, and her first feelings of shame for being Iranian because everyone saw them as "terrorists" because of the news.
I really enjoyed this book, because Marjane is so straightforward about her experiences. I think in memoirs there is a tendency to portray yourself as selfless, but Marjane portrays herself as honestly as possible, even at the cost of likability. One moment that particularly stuck out at me was when she accuses an innocent man of making lewd advances towards her in order to avoid getting in trouble with the Guardians for meeting a boy. She and her boyfriend laugh over the story but when she tells it to her grandmother, she yells at her for the first time in her life and says she's shaming her uncle's memory (the uncle who died for seditious activities that were against the Islamic Revolution). It was a relatable moment, because I think we have all done things as teens that we thought were humorous or fun that ended up bringing us shame later because of how they disappointed our families.
I didn't cry while reading PERSEPOLIS 2, although I came close at the end of the book, when she talks about seeing her grandmother for the last time. However, that doesn't mean that PERSEPOLIS 2 is any less touching. I liked how she described living as an expatriate, her encounters with her friends (and her enemies), and her experience with sex, intimacy, marriage, and divorce from both a Western and an Iranian perspective (and how the two frequently came into conflict). At one point she says something like "To the Westerners, I was an Iranian; but to the Iranians, I was a Westerner" which I thought was a great way to describe the feelings that many people with dual citizenship or people who are multiracial have of belonging to a group that is separate from those singular identities.
This is such a great series. It's easy to see why it was made into a film: the style, the narration, the content - it's all so compelling. As I said in the first book, if you're interested in learning more about Iran and enjoy memoirs written by interesting women, PERSEPOLIS is definitely a must-read.
Americans, as a whole, don't really know anything about the Middle East. According to this article, a Roper study conducted during the Iraq War (2006) found that 75% of students could not find Iran on a map (the link they provided was a dead link). I knew a bit about the Islamic Revolution, because I read INSIDE THE KINGDOM: MY LIFE IN SAUDI ARABIA by Carmen Bin Ladin, who was half-Persian and grew up in Iran at this time, but still, the extent of my knowledge could probably fit into a thimble and still have plenty of room for a thumb. I wanted to learn more and this seemed like a great way to educate myself.
Marjane Satrapi was a preteen when the Islamic Revolution happened. Before the change, she went to a school where everyone spoke French and women were free to wear mini-skirts. The Islamic Revolution imposed new restrictions - mandatory hijabs, religion being taught in schools, and the Iranian secret police, or SAVAK, investigating people on the streets or in their homes for illegal activities, for which they might be jailed, publicly whipped, or even executed.
I think what makes this such a touching - and important - book are the flashes of normality in between the chaos of war and revolution. Marjane was a mischievous kid who liked to fool around in the classroom with her friends and prank the teachers, she chafed at her parents' authority and would rebel or sneak out, and when she became a teenager, she wanted to dress in the latest fashions and buy the things that made her feel good about herself and her burgeoning identity.
I cried while reading this book. Marjane lost her beloved uncle; he was executed for seditious activities, and the last time she saw him, he made her a swan he carved out of bread in prison. I also cried when she was out shopping with her friends and heard about an Iraqi SCUD missile hitting one of the houses on her street. Not knowing if her family was alive, she forgot to take home the jeans she purchased as she hopped into a taxi. When she arrived home, she found that her family was safe - but her neighbors, a Jewish family, had all been killed because it was a Saturday, and they were observing the Sabbath. As her mother hurried her away, she saw the friend's bracelet in the rubble, attached to "something" (which I am guessing was probably pulverized flesh and blood).
PERSEPOLIS is not an easy read, because it delves into many subjects that I think a lot of people would rather not think about. It's never fun to read about war, but that's probably why we should. Many books and movies glamorize life on the front, but real war is full of casualties and suffering, and should only be employed as a last-resort. Last summer, I went to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, which is filled with "found" objects from the resulting conflagration, including schoolbooks, buttons, and uniforms, along with photos of what the city looked like before and after the blast of the A-bomb. Survivors of the blast, who were either still in utero or small children when the bomb went off, took us - a group of Americans - around the city, giving a neutral but heartrending account of the war, the A-bomb, and the terrible aftereffects. I had to step respectfully aside at one point during the tour because I had begun to cry (I was so embarrassed, but I imagine the guides are probably used to that reaction). I'm really glad I went, because Hiroshima took this awful event and turned it into a powerful statement about the importance of peace. People come there from all over the world to look at the exhibits and learn. PERSEPOLIS made me feel the same way.
Like Art Spiegelman's MAUS, Marjane Satrapi uses the "memoir as graphic novel" medium to great effect. The illustrations manage to capture the whimsical childhood outlook, and the scenes of horror and war are also illustrated as a child might perceive them - fantastical, larger-than-life, and terrifying. This is yet another graphic-novel that feels literary in terms of subject and scope, and I'd encourage you, even if comic books aren't your usual cup of tea, to pick this book up - especially if you don't know much about the Middle East, and would like to learn a bit more about Iran.
I didn't intend for my first book of 2018 to be so depressing, but MAUS is such a creative, important book. In MAUS, Art Spiegelman uses the medium of graphic novel to tell the moving, and sometimes hair-raising story of his father, Vladek: a holocaust survivor from Poland.
Juxtaposed against scenes where a now middle-aged Art is chatting with his elderly father in his home in Queens are scenes of the gradual chokehold that that Nazis formed around what later became Nazi-controlled territories. Vladek Spiegelman married into wealth with his first wife, Anja, and their lives before the war were rather luxurious. Slowly that all dwindled as their predominately Jewish area became one of the ghettos, and they were forced to run and hide for many years, until at last, someone promising to smuggle them both into Hungary betrayed them to the Nazis, and they ended up at Auschwitz.
Even though this is told biography-style, MAUS reads as being a little surreal, because Art chose to draw all of the "people" in his book as animals: the Jews are mice, the Nazis are cats, the neutral Poles are pigs, and the Americans of the present day are dogs. It was a really interesting choice stylistically, and I'm not completely sure why he did it - maybe to remove the reader one step from the horrors contained within the comic? There's a scene in here, one of the modern parts, about what happened when Vladek found a comic strip he did about his mother's suicide, which is included as an excerpt. This comic, "Prisoner on Planet Hell" is done with real people, which adds an extra layer of surrealism: a mouse, writing his memoir as a human.
If you're interested in WWII history and enjoy those "literary" graphic-novels that are about more weighty topics than capes and superheroes, I really recommend MAUS. Vladek is such an interesting man, and his firsthand account of survival is just that: firsthand. Really exceptional read.
The movie adaptation of this comic book series came out during my second year of college. I went to go see it with friends and we were totally blown away because everything was so "scene" that it literally hurt, and also all the video game and anime callbacks, plus the fact that it was kind of like a Jackie Chan movie as done by Judd Apatow. My twenty-year-old brain was blown away by the awesome, and it never occurred to me to question the fact that this book puts "slacker" culture on a pedestal, features an unrepentant manchild as a protagonist, and has a twenty-three-year-old who's in a relationship with a seventeen-year-old. Ew.
My brother recently lent me this to read, since I'd never actually read the graphic novel, and I was pleasantly surprised by how closely the movie follows this installment at least. Twenty-eight-year-old me is far less impressed with Scott. He's actually a creep. The kind who sends creepy messages about dating on non-dating sites, talking about "connections." I didn't like how he free-loaded off his roommate, Wallace. I didn't like how he basically trashed his band's effort because he didn't want to look like he was too involved, thereby risking rejection and loss of face. I didn't like that he was dating a high school girl, and I didn't like that he cheated on said high school girl, seeming to argue that because their relationship wasn't sexual, he couldn't actually cheat on her. I didn't like how he stalked Ramona at the party, and then, when he found out where she worked and that she was the primary Amazon delivery driver in the area, orders something online, thereby forcing her to come to his door, and then asks her out - while she's on the clock - and not signing for the dang package until she agrees to go out with him. Scott Pilgrim is the absolute worst kind of over-entitled male, the kind that people write books about, and I was surprised at how much I could not stand him.
That said, all the other characters in this book are great. I liked the band mates. Knives Chau was cute. Ramona is cool (albeit in a manic pixie dreamgirl way). Wallace is awesome. The surreal, video game/kung-fu movie atmosphere is still present in the comic books and I liked that air of magic realism. The book, like the movie, is also so "scene" that it hurts, although since the book was published in 2004, it comes across as far more dated. For example, Scott refers to Amazon as "that book selling website." Amazon used to only sell books and CDs before becoming the mega-online retailer behemoth that they are today. There are a few other dated references like that that kind of made me smile a little, even though they feel so jarring (I'm getting old! oh noes!).
Scott is not an ideal male by any means, but the art and the story are compelling regardless. Even if you don't like Scott, the story itself is pretty cool, as is the medium in which it's told. He won't be winning Man of the Year any time soon, but I would definitely read the other books in this sceries.
This is why I love being a book blogger - getting early access to books written by my favorite authors before they're available to the general public. I was reading over my review for BIG MUSHY HAPPY LUMP, which I received as an ARC in early 2017, and I was bemoaning the wait-time between books. Sarah Andersen gets what it's like to be a moody, anxious, cat-loving, people-avoiding artist, and her hilarious comics reflect the nail-biting introvert's mindset to a T (speaking as a nail-biting introvert, myself).
One of the things I love about these books is how they appear to be developing and growing more mature along with the artist. ADULTHOOD IS A MYTH was funny, but it was also very immature. BIG MUSHY HAPPY LUMP dealt with more serious concepts, with a greater focus on internal mindsets.
HERDING CATS takes that next leap, with emphasis on cats and pets, the struggle of being creative in an age of internet trolldom, and what it's like being a shy person in an increasingly exhibitionistic world. I really enjoyed HERDING CATS, not just because of the adorable cat drawings (although that didn't hurt), but because of how it made me laugh in solidarity, the way Allie Brosh does, and also because of the very thoughtful guide in the back about dealing with criticism and sharing art.
This is a great addition to the Sarah's Scribbles series, and I'm already counting down the days until the next one comes out.
Thanks to Netgalley/the publisher for the review copy!
I fell in love with Anne for the first time while watching the BBC mini-series version of the books. Her bosom friendship with Diana, her winning over of the aloof but good-hearted Marilla, her instant simpatico with Matthew, her enemies-to-friends relationship with Gilbert Blythe, and her constant good cheer in the face of never-ending bad luck totally made me fall hard for my fellow socially awkward, compulsive chatter-box.
As with any adaptation, fans are bound to either love or hate ANNE OF GREEN GABLES: A GRAPHIC NOVEL. It makes the rookie mistake of trying to incorporate multiple volumes of the story into one book, so it reads as being very front-heavy in terms of plot, with the end of the book feeling very rushed.
That said, reading this graphic-novel reminded me of my love for the story and made me want to re-read the books. Most of the highlights are here - the hair-dye incident, for example, and the case of the missing brooch - and they are classic. Anne actually reminds me a lot of Pollyanna (the good version, not the cruddy Disney version); I just adore tales of sweet and loving children. They give me faith in youth, while also making me want to be a better person, myself.
If you like Anne, and also like graphic novels, this book is a must. <3
Thanks to Netgalley/the publisher for the review copy!
You know what's embarrassing? Going into a thrift store when you're almost thirty years of age and buying Twilight: The Graphic Novel while the teenage male cashier judges you.
WHATEVER, TEENAGE MALE CASHIER. I REGRET NOTHING. AND NOW I HAVE TWILIGHT: THE GRAPHIC NOVEL AND YOU DON'T. SO I WIN.
When this book first came out in 2010, my first thought was, "Are you kidding me?" It looked like a cash grab to capitalize off the movie. Twilight mania was in full swing and you literally could not go anywhere without hearing someone talk about it. I initially liked the books, but the movies and the fans turned me off the series so fast because there was no escape.
Well, now that I've read the book for myself, I have revised this opinion. Yes, it is a graphic novel of a book that was turned into a movie but... the art is beautiful. Young Kim did such an amazing job. The expressions, the use of color... even the text they used... it's all so gorgeous, and fits the tone of the story far better than the movie ever did. I feel like the scenery and the looks of the characters were much more true to form.
You may be asking yourself, "What's the point?" Well, if you enjoyed TWILIGHT and you're the type of person who would buy one of those Harlequin manga (yes, they exist; yes they are awesome - YOU WOULD BE SO AMAZED HOW WELL ROMANCE TRANSLATES TO MANGA), then you should definitely get this book for your collection. I know it's going to stay in mine. <3
I kind of want to revisit the novel now. It's been sitting on my dresser, waiting...
I'm reading some pretty heavy stuff right now - nonfiction about politics & a work of historical fiction about the Vietnam war. It's nice to break up the darker reads with a few light ones, so I decided to crack into my cookbook and comic book ARCs for some moments of respite.
LADY STUFF won me over with the title, because I'm a lady! I do stuff! Obviously, I should be able to relate to this book on a personal level because of that, right? RIGHT?
I've read a number of these girl-geared comic books of the twenty-first century at this point. The first and probably most well-known was probably HYPERBOLE AND A HALF by Allie Brosh, which remains my favorite (where's the sequel?). Then there's Sarah Anderson and her Scribbles and Ruby Elliot's IT'S ALL ABSOLUTELY FINE, which is a lot like HYPERBOLE except less insightful and a tad more cliche. If I had to rank them, I'd probably go 1. HYPERBOLE, 2. SCRIBBLES, 3. FINE, 4. LADY STUFF.
LADY STUFF is not a bad book, but like most of the book I mentioned, it tends to touch on the usual themes. "Oh, personal grooming is such a pain, right?" "Oh, staying in bed is so great, right?" "LOL, I'm so lazy. How lazy am I? Just look and see!" "I like cats! Liking cats is so on trend!" "I like dogs! Everyone likes dogs!" "I'm so introverted! I feel so awkward around people! I'm gonna go hide, k!"
I relate to all of those things hard (especially the introversion bit), so I get why these are such overarching themes in girl-geared comic books. A lot of people feel introverted and isolated so it's fun to poke some gentle fun at that while also embracing it and even celebrating one's introversion. But at the same time, there's only so many incarnations of the same comedic material that one can take. Her makeup panels were probably the most relatable to me because I am forever messing up cat-eyes and going back and trying to make things even and f*cking everything up instead.
Overall, this wasn't a bad book but it wasn't anything new either, and other artists have done it better and more to my taste. Still, if you enjoyed any of the other artists I mentioned, you should definitely check this one out, as you will probably enjoy LADY STUFF too, because #LadyStuff.
Thanks to Netgalley/the publisher for the review copy!
The other day at work, I picked up my trusty bottle of iced black coffee (lightly sweetened, no milk). I took a sip - and immediately, my mouth went whoa, something is wrong here!Did the coffee go rancid? But no, it did not have that nasty "gone-off" taste; it was just bitterer than I was used to. I picked up the bottle and eyed the label: it said UNSWEETENED.
There was nothing wrong with the coffee - it was actually so smooth that drinking it black and unsweetened was perfectly acceptable to me - but I hadn't signed up for black coffee. I hadn't mentally prepared for black coffee because it wasn't what I had asked for or even expecting.
That's kind of how I feel about this book.
THE COMIC BOOK STORY OF VIDEO GAMES caught my eye immediately when I was looking at ARCs I might want to read because of the 80s styled cover and the intriguing title. I'm an ex-gamer with a geeky streak you could right a souped-up Delorean down; there was nothing about that title that did not intrigue me.
Unfortunately, Yzabel was right on the money when she says that, for a while, at least, the focus of this book is not about video games themselves, but the various technological advancements that made the invention of video games possible. Which, okay, is interesting, but not really what I signed up to read about - and it goes on for waaaay too long. The actual video game parts don't really begin until around p. 70 or 80, which leaves a significant portion of the book being not about games. (That was a really awkwardly worded sentence, but bear with me, guys.)
I did enjoy learning about the games. Hennessey discusses most of the major systems, although I was surprised he left out Virtual Boy and the Power Glove. Also, the vintage Tiger handheld electronic LCD games don't even warrant a mention? I had one of those long before I ever had a Gameboy. He does, however, discuss the "arms race" (my phrasing) between Nintendo and Sega, the oversaturation of the game market in the 80s followed by that fatal market crash, the switch from cartridge to disk, and the emergence of Playstation and X-Box following Sega's exit. Oh - and Pokemon GO, ofc.
The art is also fun. Even in the parts that aren't about video games, the artist will have little Easter eggs placed here and there to remind you that, yes, you are reading a book about video games - or at least, you will be, soon. I was pleased to see Banjo Kazooie, the guy from Balloon Fight, and Rayman, as well as a Tapper appearance when one of the panels is set in a bar. Some of the panels will be in 8-bit or 16-bit styles randomly, too, which captures that 80s nostalgia feel.
I just wish more of the book had been about games.
Thanks to Netgalley/the publisher for the review copy!
I wasn't sure what to expect from a book called HEATHEN, but it certainly wasn't a bad-ass tale about a lesbian viking warrior girl who embarks upon a quest to save a Valkyrie from the curse of Odin. Which is exactly what it is, BTW.
Too often, these warrior girl tales buy into the cliche fantasy tropes established by male fantasy writers (because they were the first, so they got to set all the rules).
NOT THIS BOOK.
I loved HEATHEN. Aydis has a great backstory, and her motives are pure even if she sometimes acts too impulsively. Freyja was awesome; it's rare to see a good female character who oozes sexuality. And Bryhild was so great - tortured and Byronic in a way that few female heroines get to be. Her doomed romance with Sigurd caused all the feels.
If you love fantasy novels and bad-ass women and comic book novels and vikings, you will love this book, I think. The writing is good, the art work is beautiful, and all the female characters in here are complex and interesting and thoroughly fleshed out. I honestly can't wait for volume two.
Thanks to Netgalley/the publisher for the review copy!
Sarah Vaughn also contributed to Alex + Ada, which is a Chobits-esque romance between a human and a robot, so when I saw that she had contributed to "DEADMAN," I applied for it without really knowing what this graphic novel was about. I liked her work! I like spooky books! The cover of this book seemed spooky! (I thought it was about vampires, actually....)
I WAS WRONG LOL
DARK MANSION OF FORBIDDEN LOVE is a title that conjures up the campy pulp novels of the 60s and 70s, but the graphic novel is actually really surprising...and I mean that in a great way. Not only does it have a Gothic mystery surrounding ghosts and revenge, it also features a bisexual heroine of color (half-Asian, half-white) and a non-binary hero of color (black). I was shocked...in the best way! How progressive of you, DC!
The story is good, too. Bernice's fiance lives in a mansion and is working on his book. When she joins him, she's put off by the fact that the house seems to be filled with ghosts and a dark presence. One of the "ghosts" is Boston Brand (Deadman), who is trying to get rid of the dark energy as well. They meet a ghost named Adelia who was murdered but can't remember why or by whom, only that her fate somehow ties into the dark energy of the house...
DARK MANSION OF FORBIDDEN LOVE has a Scooby Doo vibe to it that I found charming. I'm sure some people will be put off by the campy vibe, but I've watched dozens and dozens of Scooby Doo, so the classic ghost story element really appealed to me. I also really liked Deadman, because I'm a sucker for brooding, angsty heroes. He's like Bruce Wayne, without the asshole-ish tendencies. You really can't help but like him...he's so awkward and adorable and too precious for this world.
ALSO - whoever designed these characters, I LOVE YOU. One of my biggest beefs with graphic novels is over the top cheesecake shots. There's a tendency in graphic novels to focus on the boobs, dress the characters in revealing costumes, and give them all 50s pin-up style figures. I get that it's a throwback to the Golden Era of Comic Books when they were all drawn that way, but it's also nice to see characters that look like you. They made Bernice curvy, gave her rather thick thighs, and she's smaller on top than she is on the bottom. Her outfits are also...ordinary. She looks like someone you'd see at a coffee shop. Let me be perfectly clear: I have no problem with women who want to dress sexy or are skinny; I have a problem with that being the only representation women get in comic books. Real women are not one size fits all and it was so great to see someone with a body type and fashion sense rather similar to mine in a graphic novel.
I'm so glad DC gave this to me as an ARC. It was actually a really fun superhero comic, and I enjoyed the dark Gothic vibe, the ghost story, and the diverse rep (this is the first graphic novel I've read with a non-binary character!). The only reason I'm not giving it 4 stars is because the storyline was just a little bit too cliche, and as much as I enjoyed reading it, it's probably not a book I would purchase for myself or keep in a permanent collection. For others, though? Definitely!
This is exactly why I love being a book blogger - free copies of books by my favorite authors to review. (Okay, I lied - that's not the only reason; but it's a very definitive perk.)
I've been following the Oatmeal since 2009, and thought it was The Best Thing Ever. He's crude, but in a way that adds rather than detracts from his art, and somehow manages to find a way of looking at even the most tedious of life's moments and finding a way of making it either seem novel, hilarious, or outlandish.
Case in point: IF MY DOGS WERE A PAIR OF MIDDLE-AGED MEN.
We all think dogs are cute, right?
Well, it turns out...dogs are sort of creepy. And what better way to illustrate those kind of creepy behaviors than by portraying his pet dogs as...two middle-aged men.
Since I follow his website religiously (as I mentioned before), there is a major downside to this ARC: I've read all these comics before - and I didn't recognize any new ones. It seems like these were just the Middle-Aged Men comics from his site packaged into a collector's volume, either for die-hard fans who want this book for their IKEA coffee tables or as novelty gifts for people who haven't read his comics yet (but should). I felt like I kind of fell in the middle in terms of readership, here.
I always enjoy reading The Oatmeal's work, so I can't really give this less than three stars. But I think if I'd paid money for this, I'd be really disappointed. I'd be happy to be supporting such a talented artist, but also sad that my hard-earned money bought me a very short book with no new material.
Thanks to Netgalley/the publisher for the review copy!
Oh, Various. You are prolific, aren't you? You've written about everything from Irish folklore to books about the best jokes, the most beautiful jokes, fantastic jokes. Obviously, when I saw that this prolific author had published a book making fun of Trump, I had to have it. I blew off watching Archer to read MAD ABOUT TRUMP, that's how thrilled I was. Archer. The new one.
First, a disclaimer. This is not going to be a pro-Trump review. Imagine that. A woman with a Women's March picture as her Goodreads profile photo (the SF one, no less) and the tagline "flagrant liberal" in her username reading a book that's making fun of Trump not being pro-Trump. It seems intuitive, I know, but I actually had someone accusing me of having an "agenda" a few months ago, and I had to laugh at that, because agenda usually implies that you're trying to hide your sinister schemes under some other sort of pretense and Blue's Clues is more subtle than that.
You know what they say. Sometimes the cigar is actually a d*ck pick.
MAD ABOUT TRUMP is a bit of a mixed bag. There are some genuinely funny passages in here, and some passages like Living Dead apprentice that just made me roll my eyes and scoff. I must say that I was impressed by the range. There's everything from movie poster art to comic panels to magazine pages to fake advertisements to poems and pretty much everything in between. The humor level ranges from sophisticated to low-brow (which is typical of MAD), so in a way, that's nice, because it almost guarantees that there is something in here for everyone, no matter your tastes.
Some of my favorites were the conservative Christmas carols for post-Trump election x-mas; the new presidential seal (replace the bald eagle with the bird from Twitter); a GQ mock-up featuring the cabinet picks that gets salty AF; a pretty brilliant Family Circus parody; an equally brilliant Suicide Squad Parody called "Donald Trump's Moral Slide Squad" (featuring Kellyann Conway as "Hardly Coherent"); a fake Shopkins advert called Trumpkins; and probably my personal favorite of the collection: an Undercover Boss Parody called "Undercover Boob."
Also, to whomever formatted this book: at first my heart sank when I realized that it was basically just scanned pages of the comic book as it would be read in hard copy form with both pages spread - but bless you for having the text on each page stand alone on each page, instead of forcing me to flip back and forth. It was very readable in e-book format, so that's something to keep in mind, as well.
Honestly, with what's been going on in the world lately, I needed this collection to make me laugh. And it did, a little. Enough to count. The beginning of the collection is a tad uneven, but it gets a lot better as you get closer to the end. (For some reason, they put a lot of the cheap laughs up front.) I was afraid it would be silly, but I actually ended up enjoying this comic book quite a bit! If you're tired AF of seeing BS on the news, and are currently between episodes of Full Frontal with Samantha Bee and Late Night with Seth Meyers, pick this book up when it comes out in June.
To quote Indra Devi: "Laughter drives shouting away."
Thanks to Netgalley/the publisher for the review copy!
Wow, it's been forever since I finished and reviewed a book (read: days). Is it cheating that it's a comic book? Maybe. But it's a DC imprint - and an advanced copy, at that. Cue excitement, because DC has turned down probably hundreds of requests for ARCs from me over the last four years. They, and Disney-Hyperion, are responsible for crushing so many of my book dreams, that when I found out I'd been approved to read not just EVERAFTER but also SUPERGIRL, I shrieked in disbelief and excitement.
Note to readers of this book: from what I understand from the credits ascribed to this book (and please correct me if I am wrong), the original creator of Fables, Bill Willingham, does not appear to be associated with this work. That was a major bummer to me, because I loved the story of the original Fables series. It had a dark, film noir aspect to it, like Once Upon a Time meets Sin City, and the artwork was fantastic.
The art in EVERAFTER is not bad, either. I like the comic books that go for a more realistic style without super beefed up characters - not everyone has to look like an action figure. It's just as gritty as the Fables I remember, except the gore factor has upped. There were three or four disembowlings in here, to the point where I started to wonder if I picked up an AU version of The Walking Dead by mistake. There are even zombies in here. Zombies. In a Fables spin-off. What is going on?
I don't want to spoil too much and to be honest, I was so confused by the events in this book that I'm not sure I could do an adequate synopsis. But basically, the Fables have created this supernatural agency responsible for protecting humans against magic. The story is set in San Francisco, which I loved, because I'm from the Bay, and involves evil Native American spirits and a girl who can resurrect zombies and who has a unicorn familiar named *snicker* "Mister Prisms."
For most of the book, I considered giving the book a two star rating. The story was too dark and really confusing. I had assumed that because it was a spin-off and the first in a series, I would be able to go in cold. After finishing, I'm no longer sure that's true and am interested in seeing what people who've actually completed the series think. That said, the book started to pick up towards the end, and I loved, loved, the short story at the end about Szymon the magician. That was more what I expected from EVERAFTER: a magical character study, with depth and tragedy and humor. This book gets an extra star solely because of the awesome short story at the back that I almost - foolishly - skipped.
1. Way too many pictures of intestines outside of the human body.
2. I still have no idea what the hell was going on for 80% of the book.
3. Jordan Yow is kind of awesome and I want a Mister Prisms plushie of my own.
I was lucky enough to score an ARC of Andersen's newest book, BIG MUSHY HAPPY LUMP, and after reading it, there was really no question that I was going to give it anything less than 5 stars. Sarah Andersen gets what it's like to be a book-obsessed, introverted, shy, socially awkward millennial struggling to make it as an adult.
SHE UNDERSTANDS US, YOU GUYS.
I had received an ARC to review of ADULTHOOD IS A MYTH several years ago as well and remembered enjoying that a lot (hence why I applied for LUMP), and when I noticed that my library had a copy of ADULTHOOD IS A MYTH, I decided to check out the finished copy and see if it lived up to my memories.
ADULTHOOD IS A MYTH is very clearly a debut effort. It's very good and very funny, and still extremely relatable, but I felt like BIG MUSHY HAPPY LUMP touched on more serious issues than ADULTHOOD did. ADULTHOOD IS A MYTH is me, circa my junior year of college. BIG MUSHY HAPPY LUMP is me, post-college and newly employed. It's still me, but it's the polished, fancy me that has bragging rights and a car.
I can't wait for her next collection. I'm hoping the cover will be green.
Oh, Sarah Andersen. I love you the way Californians love avocados.
I've been purposely putting off reading my ARC of this book. Not because I thought it was going to be bad, mind, but because I enjoyed ADULTHOOD IS A MYTH so much that I wanted to savor the anticipation of reading this book because I knew it would be at least another year or more until Andersen published a new one. That can't be too weird, right? Surely I'm not the only person who avoids reading books they're excited about...right?
Like ADULTHOOD IS A MYTH and HYPERBOLE AND A HALF, BIG MUSHY HAPPY LUMP explores many common problems that introverts, millennials, women, and book lovers will be able to relate to.
Why does puberty suck for women so much more than it does for men?
Why are periods so damn inconvenient, not to mention inconsiderate?
Why is talking to people so hard?
Why do we all love cats so obsessively?
Why do we throw so much money away on books?
Why are we cold all the time, even with a sweater?
Why do we like this thing?
There isn't a lot to say. I liked ADULTHOOD IS A MYTH and I liked BIG MUSHY HAPPY LUMP. My fear was that LUMP might be nothing more than a reprisal of ADULTHOOD and I am happy to say that my fears were misguided. LUMP stands on its own, and it is both endearing and hilarious.
Thanks to the publisher/Netgalley for the review copy!
I might be the first person that applied for this book who had never heard of the author before. I inhabit a very small corner of the internet these days, and haven't had time to creep on Twitter or lurk on Tumblr. Funny story: initially, I thought that this was Allie Brosh's newest book, and just about fell over myself trying to get a copy. It wasn't, though, which is why you should read the titles of books (and actually look at the cover) before greedily clicking through.
Mistaken identity aside, it's worth mentioning that IT'S ALL ABSOLUTELY FINE is more than just passingly similar HYPERBOLE AND A HALF, and I think readers and fans of the latter will probably like the former as well. Their drawing styles, language, and sense of humor are very similar, as is the content. (I looked through the reviews, and I'm honestly surprised more people didn't mention this.) Both comic book artists use comic strips to tell slice-of-life stories that range from silly idiosyncratic tales to serious battles with mental illness.
They have their differences, too, though. I think Allie is more realistic and quirky, whereas Ruby takes the reductio ad absurdum approach, taking her points and exaggerating them to the point where they seem ridiculous, even though you get what she's saying. Such is comedy. Allie also writes mostly about depression and anxiety, whereas Ruby writes about bipolar disorder and eating disorders. Ruby also has random little sketches interspersed throughout her book that range from puns to witty observations about life. They lighten the mood and provide a nice break from the deeper stuff, like Ruby's essays. Allie is also more well known, but that could easily change once more people get wind of this book.
I really enjoyed reading about Ruby Elliot's story. After reading Roxane Gay's depressing but important feminist anthology, DIFFICULT WOMEN, I was hoping for a more uplifting read. "A comic book will cheer me up!" I thought - incorrectly. As funny as it could be, IT'S ALL ABSOLUTELY FINE got a little too *real*. Ruby is good at diffusing serious topics with humor while still being able to make her point without watering down the message in the slightest, but it's still a very serious message and should be taken seriously. (LOL so redundant.)
If it were me, I'd sell IT'S ALL ABSOLUTELY FINE and HYPERBOLE AND A HALF in a bundle, because I think they compliment each other well and would make a great gift set (and get Ruby more attention, too). Honestly, it's so wonderful to see so many people writing about mental health in such an accessible and engaging way. It allows more people to join the dialogue, and makes those who need to talk feel like they're in a better position to do so. For that reason, I think that IT'S ALL ABSOLUTELY FINE would be an excellent classroom or counseling resource.
Thanks to the publisher/Netgalley for the free copy!
I'm a sucker for cute graphic-novels: My Little Pony, Grumpy Cat, Boo, Pusheen - I see them, and I just can't help myself. Cuteness is my kryptonite.
Boo, the World's Cutest Dog, was super popular a few years ago when his photos went viral. You couldn't go anywhere without seeing his adorable little face plastered across something. I remember this store got some of the dolls during the height of the craze, and they literally sold out a few hours after opening.
This graphic-novel has several stories, done by a number of artists and story-writers. There's no continuity: the only thing they have in common is that they're all about Boo and his friends.
Boo and the Birthday Bash: ☆
This story annoyed me. It's about a spoiled, bratty teenage girl on the day of her birthday. She throws a humongous tantrum when her pet dog gets more attention than she does at her party. The story ends in her favor. Obviously.
The Boo Over the Cuckoo's Nest: ☆
This story also annoyed me. Boo & his friends are afraid that they aren't going to get breakfast because their human is sick. They end up destroying the entire kitchen in their attempt to feed themselves. Bratty selfishness without consequence seems to be a motif in this collection.
Also, the title confuses me. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest is a very dark story about a psychiatric hospital. I wasn't really sure how it was relevant to this story line. Young children, who I am guessing are the target audience for this story collection, probably aren't going to get that reference.
Weird story about Boo auditioning for a movie role. He's upset because he knows that if he gets the job, he won't see his friends all summer. Harmless, but boring. I wasn't a fan of this one, either.
This was the first story I actually liked. Boo keeps running into a very nervous chihuahua who chews up everything in sight when he's nervous. Gets bonus points for no bad Boo-puns in the title.
Cloak and Dog-ger:
Ouch. That pun. *winces* This story is proof that dogs would make the worst secret agents ever. Kind of remind me of Cats & Dogs (2001). Any of you remember seeing that movie?
Walk in the Park:
Boo is so desperate for his cookie fix that he begins hallucinating cookies everywhere in the park. Disturbing for two reasons: 1) seems to be alluding to addiction and 2) the cookies in question are chocolate-chip cookies, and you definitely shouldn't be feeding those to your dogs.
This one was ok, too. Boo & friends are camping and telling spooky stories, when suddenly they think they're being stalked by the dog-squatch. Twist ending.
Crazy Sunday: ☆
Boo is kidnapped by this rich guy who wants to be King of Instagram, basically, only to escape and meet Scooby Doo parodies and Wizard of Oz parodies. Ends almost identically to Cloak and Dog-ger. "Crazy Sunday" is right - this plot was messed up in a bad Christmas special kind of way.
After Crazy Sunday, we're treated to Boo's diary entries and then a cover gallery.
This Boo graphic-novel was disappointing. I loved the cover gallery and the art was cute, but all the stories seemed very lazily-written. I kind of got the impression that whoever created this was expecting Boo's cuteness and fame to sell copies regardless of whether or not the writing was good. They really ought to take a page from the My Little Pony fandom and write clever, engaging story lines that appeal to both young and old with clever pop-culture references and good characterization.
Thanks to Netgalley/the publisher for the review copy!