Book Review: Gemma Bovery by Posy Simmonds

Gemma BoveryTITLE: Gemma Bovery

AUTHOR: Posy Simmonds

GENRE: Graphic Novel, Adult Fiction

FIRST PUBLISHED: 1999

INFO | Goodreads

BUY | The Book Depository


Review

Set in France, Gemma Bovery is told from the perspective of a French baker, and follows his obsession with a young English woman who moves into the area with her husband.  A silent observer, Joubert lives voyeuristically by watching an affair unfold between Gemma and a local man, but is driven to hysteria as he believes her fate will be the same as the protagonist of Madame Bovary – ending in tragedy.

I really have mixed feelings about this book.  I was close to giving up on it, but I kept going because I was desperate to know how things ended – namely, whether Joubert’s Madame Bovary prophecy would come true.

On the plus side, I have never read a graphic novel like this one.  There is so much text that it read more like an illustrated book than a graphic novel, and I thought that was really exciting.  Although told by Joubert, the story also includes long quotes from Gemma’s private journals, and I think it was necessary to have these parts as text opposed to pictures (as long-winded as they sometimes were), so they can be read in their original form, without being skewed by Joubert’s perspective.

I also liked experiencing Normandy through Gemma’s eyes – it actually gave me itchy feet and made me want to visit (even though Joubert was so negative about English visitors).  There was a lot of untranslated bits of French conversation which did make everything really authentic but was also a bit of a pain as I didn’t know what anyone was saying…

On the whole though, this book just didn’t work for me.  I think ultimately I was left feeling disappointed, particularly by the ending, which was actually completely underwhelming.

I think one of the biggest problems was that I didn’t feel like I engaged with any of the characters.  Gemma’s life was so mundane for so much of the story that I just didn’t actually care for her future or her marriage at all, and the only exciting part really was the affair itself.  I didn’t care for her boring husband, or the annoying English family who holidayed nearby.  But in a way, that’s exactly the point – Joubert was blinded by his obsession, and found her fascinating regardless.

To an extent, I wonder if the reader is meant to feel disengaged on purpose.  One positive of this is how it gave me the opportunity to be objective about the unfolding events.  As an outsider, I could sense Joubert getting increasingly unhinged as the story went on.  I quickly sensed that he wasn’t actually a reliable narrator through Gemma’s diary entries, which in the end barely mentioned Joubert at all (a great example of perspective).

Star Rating: ★★ (2/5)

Emma

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February 22, 2017
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Warren the 13th and the All-Seeing Eye

After posting some of the beautiful pages from MinaLima’s edition of Peter Pan the other day, it made me want to share some more of the really aesthetic books in my collection.

Another book I am really proud of is my copy of Warren the 13th and the All-Seeing Eye.  The story is about a mistreated bellhop called Warren who finds himself caught up in the mysteries of the strange mansion he calls home.  I have a sturdy hardback edition, and every page holds a new surprise: there’s a mixture of puzzles, doodles and intricate Victorianesque designs.

In lieu of a proper review (though I would probably award it 5* if I had reviewed it), I’d much rather post photos of this work of art instead:

I could take photos of this book all day, but I’ve got to leave something for potential readers.  Even though it is a children’s book, there is so much for older readers, like the use of language and of course the beautiful illustrations.

Happy reading!

Emma

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February 18, 2017
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First Lines Friday: 17th February

First Lines Fridays is a weekly feature for book lovers hosted by Wandering Words. What if instead of judging a book by its cover, its author or its prestige, we judged it by its opening lines?  If you want to make your own post, feel free to use or edit the banner above, and follow the rules below:

  • Pick a book off your shelf (it could be your current read or on your TBR) and open to the first page
  • Copy the first few lines, but don’t give anything else about the book away just yet – you need to hook the reader first
  • Finally… reveal the book!

If you’re using Twitter, don’t forget to use #FirstLinesFridays!

It had certainly been a wild end to the autumn.  On the Heath a gale stripped the glorious blaze of colour from Kenwood to Parliament Hill in a matter of hours, leaving several old oaks and beeches dead.


Read on to find out which book this extract is from…

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Arrow

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The Loney by Andrew Michael Hurley

The Loney

INFO | Goodreads

BUY | The Book Depository


Summary:

Two brothers. One mute, the other his life long protector.

Year after year, their family visits the same sacred shrine on a desolate strip of coastline known as the Loney, in desparate hope of a cure.

In the long hours of waiting, the boys are left alone. They cannot resist the causeway revealed with every turn of the treacherous tide, the old house they glimpse at its end…

Many years on, Hanny is a grown man no longer in need of his brother’s care.

But then the child’s body is found.

And the Loney always gives up its secrets, in the end.


I don’t know how exactly, but I picked up this book thinking it would be just a piece of general fiction about two brothers and a mystery.  In fact, I can be quoted somewhere saying, “oh, I am hoping it will have similarities to The Shock of the Fall“.  Wrong.  This book is a horror story.  I’m so glad I found that out before I continued reading it at 11pm in bed.  As for the story itself, it is wonderfully descriptive, though it is a little slow waiting for the action to start – I’m 50 pages in and a whole lot of not-very-much has happened so far.  But this story won the 2015 Costa Book Awards, so I’m giving it the benefit of the doubt.

Read this book?  What are your thoughts on it?

Check out the First Lines Fridays archive for more posts like this!

Emma

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February 17, 2017
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Elegy for a Dead World: Dear Marta

I recently started playing a fantastic game for writers called Elegy for a Dead World.  It plays like a scrolling platform game, but there is no fighting or obstacles to face.  Instead, in each world, players are given the opportunity to write stories about their landscape – the sights, the smells, the sounds – with writing prompts to guide them.

I’ve written a few stories on there now, but I was particularly pleased with my most recent one: Dear Marta.  It is the letter from a girl on a new planet – one with warm weather, beautiful sunsets and starry, starry nights – to her sister back on their home world, Onun.

As the story progresses, it becomes apparent that this isn’t a letter written from the heartache of a short absence.  It has been a long time since the girls have been together.

At the end, it is revealed that the narrator’s sister died a long time ago, back when they were children on Onun.  The girl remembers their childhood fondly, and promises her sister that she will never forget her, but this will be the last letter she will write.


What story would you have written, with this beautiful purple planet as your backdrop?

Happy writing,

Emma

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February 16, 2017
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What I Read for Gra-fix Novel Week

The Gra-fix Novel Week read-a-thon was an unprecedented success!  I managed to finish six graphic novels, a mixture of books I had bought and others I had borrowed from friends or the library.

Here’s the six books I completed this week:

1.) Gemma Bovery by Posy Simmonds

I started this before Gra-fix Novel Week, but starting the read-a-thon was the push I needed to get it finished.  Ultimately I found it quite a boring read, though I liked the amount of text, making it feel more like an illustrated book than a graphic novel.

2.) Storm by Tim Minchin

As a huge Tim Minchin fan, I am completely biased here, but Storm was excellent.  I recommend listening to his performance of Storm on YouTube, which was playing in my head as I read his book:

3.) The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil by Stephen Collins

I was expecting this to be a funny read, but actually it ended up tackling some serious topics about life and society, with some quite sinister moments…

4.) Escape from “Special” by Miss Lasko-Gross

Sadly, I was a little underwhelmed by this graphic novel.  Nevertheless, many of the issues, particularly those near the end of the book, were very easy to relate to.  Good for anyone who has ever felt a bit different.Saga

5.) Saga, Volume 1 by Brian K. Vaughan

Woah, just woah.  This was my favourite read of the week.  Saga was funny, sexy and exciting – I can’t wait to get my hands on volume 2!

6.) Snowpiercer, Volume 1 by Jacques Lob

I loved the concept of this story, but there was just something lacking.  Perhaps it was the illustrations that put me off, I can’t decide.


I’ve loved doing so much reading this week, and it has actually given me a real boost.  Without a doubt, I will be making this read-a-thon a regular event starting from June, running it twice a year (June and December).  Click here for more information!

Emma

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February 12, 2017
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First Lines Friday: 10th February

First Lines Fridays is a weekly feature for book lovers hosted by Wandering Words. What if instead of judging a book by its cover, its author or its prestige, we judged it by its opening lines?  If you want to make your own post, feel free to use or edit the banner above, and follow the rules below:

  • Pick a book off your shelf (it could be your current read or on your TBR) and open to the first page
  • Copy the first few lines, but don’t give anything else about the book away just yet – you need to hook the reader first
  • Finally… reveal the book!

If you’re using Twitter, don’t forget to use #FirstLinesFridays!

Inner North London
top-floor flat.
All white walls
white carpet
white cat.


Read on to find out which book this extract is from…

Arrow

Arrow

Arrow

Storm by Tim Minchin

22997383

INFO | Goodreads

BUY | The Book Depository


Summary:

A storm is brewing at a London Dinner party.  When Tim meets the mysterious fifth guest at the table, small talk descends into a battle between science and belief.


I have so much love for this book.  I am a huge fan of Tim Minchin, and was fortunate enough to see him perform in Cardiff in Jesus Christ Superstar a couple of years ago.  I enjoy his comedy too, and let’s face it, pretty much everything else he has dabbled in.  I even donated to MND Australia when I was moved to tears by his contribution to ‘The Fading Symphony’.  So I am biased, completely biased, but you really should read this book – it is witty and wonderfully written.  I’ll be reviewing it in the weeks following Gra-fix Novel Week, so watch this space.

Want more First Lines Fridays posts?  Check out the First Lines Fridays archive!

Emma

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February 10, 2017
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Peter Pan MinaLima Illustrated Edition

I don’t buy books very often.  I’m quite a frugal person, but also I enjoy supporting local libraries, and if I buy a book then it really has to be something special.  And MinaLima’s illustrated edition of Peter Pan is that something special.  I thought I’d share some photos of this beautiful work of art – it is the sort of collectors item that I’ll be passing onto my children one day!

If the designs in the book feel familiar to you, it is because MinaLima designed all the graphic props for the Harry Potter films.  You can buy many of their designs in their online shop, which I have spent way too much time drooling over.  I’m saving up to buy some of the prints, and also for the next MinaLima illustrated book being released in March – Beauty and the Beast.  I can’t wait!

Emma

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February 2, 2017
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Splendor Review: Can you build the greatest empire?

Recently I went to a board game cafe for the first time, which ended up being one of the coolest ways I’ve ever spent a Friday night.  After an introductory game of Geistesblitz (or Ghost Blitz, as it is also known), we requested something a little more complex and were recommended Splendor.

The idea of Splendor is to collect and spend gemstones to grow the greatest empire, starting with mines and building up to visits by great nobles.

There really aren’t that many rules, with only a handful of options each turn: buy a card, reserve a card or collect gems.  With the aim of the game being to reach 15 points, players must devise a strategy that builds their empire the fastest, all the while trying to attract the nobles to visit and keeping an eye on the other players’ moves.

Cards are ranked 1, 2 or 3, with the greater number usually being worth more points but requiring parting with larger sums of gems.  Fortunately, the more cards you collect, the easier it is to shop, as every card offers a gem discount.  This means that very quickly players are able to buy cards of a greater value, and most games I played lasted no longer than about half an hour with two players.

I highly, highly recommend this game for everyone, even those relatively new to board games.  It is fun and competitive and like all great board games is a real friendship tester!

You can pick up a copy of Splendor on Amazon by clicking here.

Ever played Splendor before?  Got ant board game recommendations?  Comment below!

Happy gaming!

Emma

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February 1, 2017
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Can you survive the Neverending Nightmares?

Neverending Nightmares

Neverending Nightmares is a psychological horror game set in the nightmarish dream realm of the protagonist.  Through a series of levels, including a spooky mansion and asylum, the player must navigate the maze of corridors and doors to escape the monsters and try to wake from the nightmare.  What is really special about this game is that it is based on the creator’s own battle with mental illness, which makes the blurred lines between dream and reality all the more chilling.

I’m a bit of a wimp when it comes to horror games, but I love them all the same.  We can all relate to that feeling of moving about the house at night – that apprehension of not knowing what is in the darkness around you and relying on your senses to guide you safely.  Neverending Nightmares very much feeds off that fear – gameplay is almost entirely in black and white, with much of it spent creeping through the shadows.

As Thomas, our protagonist, moves through the hellish levels, he constantly meets with scenes of violent deaths, many depicting the young girl who claims to be his sister at the start of the game.  Who is this girl really, and how is her death linked to Thomas?

Controls are very simple – other than basic movement, the only other control is one that lets you interact with certain items like creepy dolls and candles.  Of course, you can also run, which will come in very handy when the monsters begin to appear, though the character has limited stamina, so use this feature sparingly as you never know when you’ll need it.

The monsters were done very well too.  I liked that the three different creatures in the game required different strategies to sneak past, and the lack of combat or a weapon meant that I was constantly on edge, checking the shadows for those eerie shapes.

Neverending Nightmares

My playthrough lasted about an hour in the end – it felt like a comfortable amount of time for the story.  There are three possible endings, and I do know from some research that I got the most miserable of the three – unlucky!

The game certainly wasn’t perfect.  The storyline felt a little disjointed at times.  Although this added to the overall sense of disorientation, I don’t think that’s an excuse for confusing gameplay.  But the stunning visuals and soundtrack completely redeem it for me, and definitely succeeded in giving me a fright more times than I like to admit.

You can buy a copy of Neverending Nightmares on Steam for £10.99 by following this link.  Personally, I’m not convinced it is worth paying full price for, but it certainly is worth purchasing if it is ever on sale again.

Turn off the lights, put on some headphones, and indulge in this atmospheric nightmare.


Have you played Neverending Nightmares before?  What did you think of it?

Emma

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January 29, 2017
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Book Review: Fish + Chocolate by Kate Brown

Fish + Chocolate by Kate BrownTitle: Fish + Chocolate

Author: Kate Brown

Genre: Graphic Novel, Fiction, Short Stories

First Published: 2011

INFO | Goodreads

BUY | The Book Depository


Fish + Chocolate is a collection of three short stories about mothers and their experiences of loss.  I picked it up because I found the imagery on the cover so striking, and the blurb promised me ‘disturbing themes’ and something ‘unsettlingly strange’.  I tend to enjoy the surprise of often controversial works, so I thought I would give it a read.

In the first story, ‘The Piper Man’, a Pied-Piper-esque figure leads a woman’s child astray.  This was probably the strongest of the three stories, and seemed to have more of a complete storyline than the others.  I enjoyed the almost supernatural little surprise at the end.

The second story, ‘The Cherry Tree’ is easily the most beautifully illustrated, with the whole story told in shades of pink and green.  It was the story that had the biggest impact on me, though I felt like there was something missing.  The tragedy at the end of this story was almost unnecessarily morbid, and I don’t feel like I knew the characters and circumstances well enough to really be able to understand what happened and why.  If tragic events must happen in a story, I like them to have a purpose, and I think there was a message in this story that I missed.

Lastly, a woman struggling with the loss of her baby tries to work through her emotions in ‘Matryoshka’ (which is another word for Russian dolls, and is an aptly unsettling name for such a story as this).  The events were really disjointed, and rather than this reflecting the mother’s mental state, it just left me feeling a bit lost as to what was actually happening.  There are some very startling and graphic images in this story which made me feel quite uncomfortable – certainly not for the faint-hearted.

However, on the whole the illustrations do a lot to redeem this book.  Kate Brown is a very talented artist, and I find her style really appealing.  It’s just a shame that the subject content was so miserable – I felt pretty low after reading it, and I didn’t even take away any great morals or messages.  It was grim without purpose, which for me made it quite a negative reading experience in the end.

I feel harsh giving this book such a low score, especially as the stories have stayed with me, but overall it wasn’t an enjoyable experience – but maybe that’s the point… after all, there isn’t anything enjoyable about loss and human suffering.

Star Rating: ★★ (2/5)


Check out more book reviews here!

Emma

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January 26, 2017
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