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Graphic Novel

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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Book Review: Stan and Nan by Sarah Lippett

26210515Title: Stan and Nan

Author: Sarah Lippett

Genre: Graphic Novel, Non-Fiction, Biography

INFO | Goodreads

BUY | The Book Depository


Stan and Nan is a graphic novel sharing the story of Sarah Lippett’s grandparents: her Nan, who she was very close to, and her Grandad, who she never met.  It is a story about love and the strength of family, inspired by the letters Sarah’s grandmother wrote to her about her late husband.

This book is a real credit to the graphic novel genre.  Anyone – whether they knew their grandparents or not – will have heard stories about them.  Stories are so important, and are a great part of keeping someone’s memory alive.  This is what Stan and Nan is all about, especially as much of the story is told from the perspective of Sarah Lippett’s relatives.  Putting their story into a book must have been a really difficult experience for Sarah, as the love she had for her Gran is very apparent in their conversations, and really very moving.Stan and Nan

The subject matter made it quite a tough book to read at times.  I have a very good relationship with my Gran, and much of Sarah’s interactions with her Gran were very familiar.  A particularly funny and heart-warming moment for me was when her Gran offered her Custard Creams even though she was a vegan; this happened again later and it was just as funny!

The illustrations are quite rough at times, but that’s really just Lippett’s style.  As this book is so personal to the author, I feel the drawings just add a layer of authenticity and they don’t feel lazy at all.  Anyway, there are times when Lippett shows off her abilities and attention-to-detail with some full-page drawings, and I personally feel the whole book fits together really nicely.

Star Rating: ★★★★★ (5/5)

Emma

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January 22, 2017
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Book Review: In Real Life by Cory Doctorow

In Real Life by Cory Doctorow

Title: In Real Life

Authors: Cory Doctorow and Jen Wang (illustrator)

Genre: Graphic Novel, Fiction, Young Adult, Fantasy

First Published: 2014

“This life is real too. We’re communicating aren’t we?”

INFO | Goodreads

BUY | The Book Depository | Amazon


review

In Real Life is a stunning graphic novel about teen Anda and her time spent on the MMORPG, Coarsegold Online.  Initially joining a clan to eliminate players who break the rules, she soon befriends one of the players she has sworn to destroy – he teaches her that things aren’t always as clear-cut as they appear, and that behind the game avatars are real people.

I was intrigued by this story since I’d first heard about it – I was curious to see how the online world would be portrayed.  I’ve dabbled in MMORPGs before and agree with the benefits of online gaming (and can also sympathise with the misunderstanding parents conundrum that Anda faces).  I thought the book approached gaming from a fair and neutral perspective; it showed the benefits of the community and the real friendships online gaming can forge, and also presented the downsides, exploring such things as cultural differences.  It appreciates the immense power of the Internet, and how online communications can affect real life.

Don’t just think because it’s video games people can’t get hurt.

The story was shorter than I had expected.  Events seemed to happen very quickly, and there are some areas that could have benefited from further development.  For example, I think I would have liked to have seen the friendship between the two main characters grow outside of the game; I would certainly buy any sequel produced that continued their stories.

The illustrations were one of the best parts of the book – the character creation page was particularly fascinating to look at, and the busy fantasy world scenes were colourful and exciting.

Overall the story was easy to read, and I finished it in just over half an hour.  I would read it again, but the plot wasn’t quite as exciting as I had expected.  Considering the landscape they had to play with, I was hoping for something more like Username: Evie, but instead IRL focused more on morals and culture than adventure.  It’s a shame that the story didn’t quite meet my expectations, as paired with those gorgeous drawings, it could have been a winner.

Star Rating: ☆☆☆½ (3.5)

Have you read this book?  What are your thoughts on it?

Emma

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May 16, 2016
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Book Review: Batgirl Volume 4 (New 52 Series)

Batgirl Volume 4 (New 52 Series)

Title: Batgirl Vol. 4: Wanted

Author: Gail Simone (writer) et al.

Genre: Comic/Graphic Novel, Superhero

Format: Hardback

First Published: 2014

INFO | Goodreads 

BUY | The Book Depository


_Summary

Batgirl struggles to continue fighting crime after being emotionally drained by the death of her brother, James, Jr. With her relationships with Batman and her father strained, Batgirl must face one of Batman’s most ruthless villains, The Ventriloquist, alone.

Review

I haven’t reviewed a DC comic in a while, but this volume was too good to pass up a chance to rave about it.  I thought it might be hard to follow on from Death of the Family (I binged on the Batman, Batgirl and Nightwing volumes), but I was pleasantly surprised to see the introduction of a brand new villain.

ventriloquist

The Ventriloquist is adapted from a male character of the same name in the older Batman comics, and for the New 52 series, the character has been made female, with an Alma from F.E.A.R. feel about her.  She operates a dummy called Ferdie, who is a bit of a ladies man, and has the ability to move on his own without Shauna’s aid.  The magic at work here isn’t explained, so I don’t know how exactly Ferdie was able to move – he frequently wanted to cheat on Shauna too, so I don’t know if this was an extension of the multiple personality disorder from which she suffers, or if he was actually a living entity.  Either way, they were a creepy duo!  I have read that fans of the original Ventriloquist prefer the original, but as this is my first encounter with the character, I have been nothing but impressed.

Another major theme of this volume was Barbara overcoming the guilt associated with losing her brother.  She feels she is no longer worthy of being Batgirl, and refuses to wear the suit.  The events of the third volume spill over into the storyline here, as her own father vows to capture Batgirl and seek revenge, building up to a very exciting final encounter between father and daughter (see front cover image)!

Barbara Gordon remains one of my favourite DC characters even without her Batgirl alter ego.  This volume in particular we see her dealing with a lot of complex emotions, and also see her in love, trying to do normal teenager things with a boy she likes.  It was good to see these vulnerabilities in her character, as they show what she has had to sacrifice to be Batgirl.  Volume 4 is definitely the most action-packed yet, and I cannot recommend the series highly enough.

Star Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆ (5/5)

Has anyone else read Batgirl – the New 52 series or earlier?  What comics do you think I should try next?

Happy reading!

Emma

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January 30, 2016
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(ARC) Book Review: Renée by Ludovic Debeurme

Renée

Title: Renée

Author: Ludovic Debeurme

Genre: Graphic Novel

Format: eARC

Publication Date: Due to be published on 2nd February 2016

Source: Net Galley (I received a free copy in exchange for an honest review)

‘Time has no heart… but it beats.’

INFO | Goodreads

BUY | The Book Depository


Summary

While Lucille moves back in with her overbearing mother and Arthur serves time in prison for murder, new character Renee becomes obsessed with a married jazz musician twice her age. Debeurme’s haunting border-less panels follow these three lovers between dreams and reality, twining their stories together into a poignant and universal search for love.

Review

Yikes, where do I start?  This book was… interesting.  I don’t think I have ever read anything quite like it, and for that reason, it certainly stands out.  For the first half of the book, I really struggled to grasp how all the character’s lives were intertwined, and with the illustrations being so abstract, it was easy to become confused about which drawings related to which character.

Nevertheless, as I read on, and I found my bearings over who was who, I did start to really enjoy it.  It was probably a bit too abstract for my liking, and I feel a re-read might be in order to appreciate all of the metaphors portrayed by the art.  I’ll have to admit, I found the art a bit crude in places for me personally.  I can see that this did have relevance to the characters and their states of mind, though from the cover and description I hadn’t expected the imagery to be quite so graphic (definitely more appropriate for an adult audience).  I was intrigued enough to read to the end, and ultimately found it interesting how all the characters were linked, and how love could be both beautiful and destructive.  Some parts of the book were very poetic, and although I wouldn’t necessarily buy this book for myself, I’m glad I read it.

Just an afterthought: I realised after reading that this book is second in the Lucille collection; perhaps reading the first book would have set the scene a little more – can anyone who had read Lucille offer any feedback here?

Star Rating: ★★★ (3/5)

Have you read this book?  What are your thoughts on it?

EmmaEmma

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January 28, 2016
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Book Review: Here by Richard McGuire

Here

Title: Here

Author: Richard McGuire

Genre: Fiction, Graphic Novel

Do you remember the guy who used to live here?

Goodreads | The Book Depository


review

I’ve just finished this intriguing graphic novel, after being drawn in by the simplicity of the cover.  The book follows a room over
millions of years, how it develops from a patch of land to the home of a number of different people.

It is an easy read – I finished it in no more than half an hour – but it is interesting to follow the lives of the house’s occupants.  In the years before the house is built, we see the history of the building behind the plot, and I love how much is revealed of the family who lived there, and how the age of the house is commented on even when it is obscured by the walls of the room and we can no longer see it.  The book is never just about what is inside the room, but about the entire space around it too.

From the book, I got the sense that the author could have taken any square of land anywhere in the world and written a history of it that was engaging and entertaining.  It made me think of my own house, of what stood there several hundred years ago, let alone thousands or millions.

Speech bubbles hold snippets of conversation – this one made me smile, reminding me of my own soppy dogs.

The illustrations are too simple at times, but that’s probably just because I am not a huge fan of minimalist art.  In the context of the book, they seem appropriate, but particularly at the beginning I got the feeling the same scene has just been copied and pasted onto multiple pages with little change.  Arguably, this shows how in that time period, there was little activity in the room, but I still found it a bit boring.

I can’t say I would pay the £22.99 retail price The Book Depository are asking for it, though really it is more a piece of art than a book, and I would love to have it on my shelf to flick through now and again.  Personally, I found that no mountains were moved for me, but it is still a beautiful concept for a book.

Star Rating: ★★★½ (3.5/5)

Has anyone else read this book?  If so, what did you think of the minimalist art style?

Emma

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September 29, 2015
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Book Review: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (Graphic Novel)

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Title: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (Graphic Novel)

Author: Ransom Riggs, Cassandra Jean (illustrations)

Genre: Graphic Novel, Young Adult, Fiction, Paranormal

‘I used to dream about escaping my ordinary life, but my life was never ordinary. I had simply failed to notice how extraordinary it was.’

INFO | Goodreads

BUY | The Book Depository


_Summary

(Adapted from the Goodreads summary)

A horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores its abandoned bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that the children were more than just peculiar. They may have been dangerous. They may have been quarantined on a deserted island for good reason. And somehow – impossible though it seems – they may still be alive.

_review

Overall, I enjoyed the story, and the plot was what saved the graphic novel from being a disaster.  I loved the mystery and horror elements combined, and the unexpected twist of what the monsters really were (but don’t worry, no spoilers in this review!)

For my tastes, the illustrations were a little bit too messy and simple, and rather than this coming across as artistic, they felt a bit lazy instead.  However, there were some details in the drawings which did redeem it for me – the gas masks, the birds and the monsters were all done very well.

I also loved the contrast of real photographs alongside the illustrations.  Ransom Riggs actually collects old and unusual photographs as a hobby, and there’s an interesting little article on the photographs here, for anyone as disturbed as I was by them.  Before reading the article, I had naturally assumed that they had been edited for the book, but it seems as though they really are just strange pictures – how intriguing!

I always knew I was strange, I never dreamed I was peculiar.

After a little research, I have also learned that the story is currently being made into a film directed by Tim Burton (who is one of my favourite directors!).  According to Ransom Riggs’ website, it is set to be released in March 2016 – this has made me very happy indeed!  The trailer, which I find uncannily merry, can be watched here:

Lastly, I had assumed before reading that the book was a standalone story, but I was wrong, and for some reason that really disappointed me.  I’m not convinced that it will work as a series, but we’ll see, we’ll see.  I really did enjoy the story, but I think I’ll be reading the later books in the traditional format so I can experience Ransom Riggs’ writing style.

I’m actually going to do a slightly different rating system for this graphic novel.  The story and characters were strong, but I felt it wasn’t complemented by the style of illustration.  Fans of the story might think otherwise, but as a first taste of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, I personally feel it didn’t do the story justice.

Story Star Rating: ★★★★ (4/5)

Illustrations Star Rating: ★★ (2/5)

Emma

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September 9, 2015
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Book Review: Blue is the Warmest Color by Julie Maroh

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Title: Blue is the Warmest Color

Author: Julie Maroh (translated by Ivanka Hahnenberger)

Genre: Fiction, Graphic Novel, Romance, LGTBQ

‘And little by little, I understood that there were many types of love. We do not choose the one we fall in love with, and our perception of happiness is our own and is determined by what we experience…’

INFO | Goodreads

BUY | The Book Depository


Review

I am pretty much traumatised after reading this book.  It piqued my interest after seeing Cat’s review, so I ordered it from the library and read it in an hour or so (though The Geek Undergraduate did manage to read it in a record-breaking twenty minutes).

It is a beautiful and tragic story, told mostly through the diaries of Clementine, who we learn in the first few pages has recently died.  Some narrative, mostly commenting on the diary, is from the thoughts of Emma, Clementine’s girlfriend.

Beginning the story with the death of the protagonist is immensely powerful. I think this is enhanced even more by the fact that death by suicide is hinted at, with the mention of a note and the anger of Clementine’s father towards Emma. The story then skips back in time to Clementine’s teenage years, and her (and her friend’s/family’s) struggle to accept her sexuality.

Maybe this is eternal love, this mixture of peace and fire.

The illustrations are detailed and realistic, though for much of the story the colours are quite bland, except for the bright blue of Emma’s hair.  Rather than a criticism, I thought this was an effective stylistic choice, and when the colour is eventually washed out if her hair, it fills the rest of the panels instead.  I took several possible interpretations from this.  I saw it as Emma making sacrifices for Clem, but also as a foreshadowing of the bad things to come.  It was almost like the blue in Emma’s hair was giving life to Clem – blue is the warmest colour after all.

After reading, I also discovered the book has been adapted into a film.  I wasn’t 100% convinced by the trailer, but I’d still love to get my hands on it!  Has anyone seen the film?  If so, do you recommend it?

Star Rating: ★★★★½ (4.5/5)

Emma

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September 3, 2015
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Book Review: Through The Woods by Emily Carroll

Title: Through The Woods

Author: Emily Carroll

Genre: Graphic Novel, Horror, Short Stories

Format: Hardback

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

INFO | Goodreads

BUY | The Book Depository


review

Through The Woods is divided into five standalone horror stories, all told through the most beautiful and haunting illustrations.

Emily Carroll is a very skilled artist and storyteller and had me on the edge of my seat for the entirety of the book.  I don’t know what the book equivalent of screaming at/hiding from a horror movie is, but my frightened tugging at my boyfriend’s sleeve and repetition of ‘eep, that’s freaky‘ pretty much summed up my experience.

My favourite of the short stories has to be A Lady’s Hands Are Cold, which I found particularly chilling.  The stories are always left open on a cliffhanger, meaning it is up to the reader to finish them.  The simplicity of the art has a similar effect, and leaving so much to the imagination means it is easy to fill in the spaces with one’s own fears.

This was an easy five star read, and I highly recommend it.  Best read at night with dim lighting, maybe even a flickering candle…

Star Rating: ★★★★★ (5/5)

For a taste of Emily Carroll’s style, there are loads of comics and illustrations to view for free on her website.

Emma

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August 13, 2015
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Book Review: Just So Happens by Fumio Obata

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Title: Just So Happens

Author: Fumio Obata

Genre: Graphic Novel, Cultural (Japan)

‘Life has a time limit.  And we are changing all the time… So are our ambitions, desires, and purposes.  The important thing is to find something that never changes in you.’

INFO | Goodreads

BUY | The Book Depository


review

I picked up Just So Happens on a whim, drawn in by the beautiful watercolour paintings and Japanese theme.  The story follows a Japanese girl living in London, who must fly home to Japan after receiving news that her father has died; she must come to terms with losing her father while readjusting to the Japanese culture she had left behind.

After reading Goodreads reviews, I see that a common perception is that although visually stimulating, the book loses points by having a weak plot.  In a sense, I can agree with this.  The overall message I took away after reading was ‘life just goes on’, and I wasn’t sure that Yumiko, our protagonist, had truly found closure by the time she returned back to London (and therefore neither had I).

However, perhaps those critics are missing the point of it all.  Due to her cultural displacement, caught between her London identity and her Japanese one, she can not find peace within herself.  I sensed her confusion, but I think it could have been portrayed even better than it was.

Most of the star rating goes towards the illustrations, which depict Japan beautifully.  Maybe I was generous giving this four stars, but despite the thin-at-times plot, it was a very pleasant read, and I will definitely be reading more from Fumio Obata.

Star Rating: ☆☆☆☆ (4/5)

Have you read this book, and if so, what are your thoughts on it?  Do you agree with my review or did you interpret the book in a different way?  Comment below!

Emma

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June 14, 2015
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