{Graphic Novel Week} Graphic Novel Review Round-Up #3 (Boxers & Saints, Hark! A Vagrant, and more!)

Graphic Novel Week

Instead of throwing multiple review posts at you each day, I figured I’d do a few review round-up posts with mini reviews! This is the last of my review posts … hope you guys enjoyed them!

boxers saints hark a vagrant
chew hidden relish

Boxers & Saints (Boxers & Saints, #1 & #2) by Gene Luen Yang

Alright, this was one of those graphic novels that EVERYONE was talking about. I think I’ve taken them out a couple times from the library, but never actually read them, so after having devoured both books in the span of an afternoon, I kind of can’t believe that I didn’t read these sooner! I loved that this book was rooted so deep in Chinese history and spiritualism. They were dark and emotional, but so incredibly beautiful. I knew next to nothing about the Boxer Revolution but after finishing this book, I wanted to look more into it. The illustrations are simple, yet effective, and I loved the use of colour throughout both books. I also loved how dramatic both books were — they were so drastically different from one another, but definitely joined together. When it comes to which one I love most, I might have to say Saints since it was a little less violent and seemed extremely personal.

Hark! A Vagrant by Kate Beaton {Canadian}

Admittedly, I had NO idea what this book was about when I picked it up. I remember reading about Kate Beaton at one point when researching graphic novel authors. She came recommended AND she was Canadian, and yet when I was going through my graphici novels to pick one to read, I still didn’t go to pick this one up. BIG mistake! The instant I cracked this one open I was busting a gut laughing! I loved how Kate Beaton worked in bits of history and literature and everything in between. While all of the comics went from mildly funny to outragreously hilarious, I would have to say my favourite ones were those based on literature — the Bronte sister comics, or the Nancy Drew comics, were so funny! I also loved that Beaton was a history person and she’d write down some kind of backstory or blurb about why she wrote certain comics. I even felt like I learned something!

Chew (Volume 1: Taster’s Choice) by John Layman

OK, when I first put this book on hold, I assumed it was going to be a book about food — like, a normal book about food — but it so wasn’t! Yeah, there’s food, but the whole premise is that the main character takes a bite out of something and he gets visions of that something’s previous life. Weird, huh? There’s a lot of crazy stuff that happens in this book and it was a whole lot darker than I imagined it would be — and very, very gross. Before I picked it up, I assumed I’d want to read the whole series, but I think I’ll just stop at one. It was an interesting read with great illustrations, but I don’t think it’s a series for me.

Hidden: A Child’s Story of the Holocaust by Loic Dauvillier

I was so intrigued by this one. I was perusing the list of new graphic novels that the library was getting and this one popped up. It was pretty good. I love finding great books on the holocaust (does that sound weird?), so I was eager to try a graphic novel about it. It’s definitely geared toward a younger crowd, but I really do think anyone can enjoy (?) it. The illustrations are beautiful and the colours match the subject matter quite nice. It’s one of those books that’s meant to open up dialogue. There’s not a lot of depth to it, plenty of what happens is alluded to but not totally discussed, so if kids were to read it, I’m sure lots of questions would be asked, but I think that’s what is meant to happen. Glad I finally read this one! It’s very short and quick to read — I managed to sneak it in before bed.

Relish: My Life in the Kitchen by Lucy Knisley

If you know me, you know I love food. I wouldn’t say I’m a cook or anything, since I’m more of a recipe reader than someone who can actually wing it in the kitchen. I’m in serious awe of people who can just open a fridge and figure out what to make with the contents (that doesn’t involve putting the leftover chicken onto a bed of leaves — voila! Salad!). This was a fun little book and one that came highly recommended. I wouldn’t say it was my favourite foodie book, but it was still one that had my mouth watering at points. I always thought I was kind of a foodie, but then I read books where people are eating foods that are way out there and I realize that I’m far from a foodie. I just like food. Anyway, there was a lot of “talking” in this book and I felt like it could have done with more illustrations. What was there was nice. I did like the “recipes” that were included. Definitely not your typical recipes! I liked the story of the author growing up surrounded by food, but I felt like there was something missing. Still, after picking this one up a few times from the library already, I’m glad to have finally read it.

Have you read any of these graphic novels? What did you think? 



{Graphic Novel Week} Graphic Novel Review Round-Up #2 (Skim, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, and more!)

Graphic Novel Week

Instead of throwing multiple review posts at you each day, I figured I’d do a few review round-up posts with mini reviews! This month I’ve been trying to read a lot more graphic novels, so there are a LOT of reviews to get through!

skim page by paige i kill giants
miss peregrine fatherland sisters

Skim by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki {Canadian}

I feel like I should’ve liked this one more than I did. Maybe I had This One Summer on my brain too much while reading this one, but I really felt like it didn’t compare with that story. I kind of felt like there was a lack of story with this one and the illustrations, while nice, weren’t as great as the ones in This One Summer. Skim, the main character, was supposed to be this goth/wicca character but aside from the things she said, I didn’t really get any inclination that she was either of these things. I also felt like she didn’t really have much going for her, like I couldn’t really connect to her as a character. At any rate, I feel like the cousins are growing in their stories, so I still look forward to what they come up with next!

Page by Paige by Laura Lee Gulledge

I loved this book! I think I had taken it out from the library before but never did get around to reading it, so I’m very happy to have finally cracked it open. Paige was such a great character. She really is that person lurking in every creative person, in every person who wants to do something but it too shy to outwardly show it. I felt like the whole story was completely inspiring and motivational. I loved the story of Paige finding a group of people who helped break her out of her shell. I felt like I could really connect to Paige throughout the whole story. She grew so much and would be an inspiration to any young person! And the illustrations! I loved how Paige was dripping from every page and how the illustrations really portrayed the frustration boiling inside of her. The whole thing was very thoughtful and I highly recommend it!

I Kill Giants by Joe Kelly

This was a very different kind of book for me. For the first half or so I really didn’t understand what was going on. Was the main character really hunting giants? Were the giants a metaphor? I honestly wasn’t the biggest fan of the main character for most of the book. I think that’s how it was supposed to be — she was supposed to be a difficult character to really understand. Of course by the end of the book I completey got what was going on and it was so sad! Lovely ending, but I feel like it was straining for the first bit. The illustrations were wonderful at some points, but I felt like they were too drippy and rough in others. Still, it was a decent story. Probably not one I’d recommend to beginners, but one I did enjoy by the final page.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

This one was so good! I loved the novel for this story and thought it was also great to read as a graphic novel. It was fun to see the characters on the page and relive all of those moments I had in the first book. The photos were still present in this book, which was wonderful. They’re still wonderfully creepy! My only real complaint about the story told in graphic novel form is that there was a bit of an air of mystery lost with actually seeing the characters. It was kind of nice when it was just the photographs in the book, where I didn’t know anything about the characters on the island aside from what I saw in the photographs. I feel like it was more mysterious in my head than seeing them on the page. Still, it was a fun one to go through again and it reminded me of why I loved the story in the first place.

Fatherland by Nina Bunjevac {Canadian}

Not too much to say about this one. It’s more of an autobiography and it was beautifully told. The illustrations were great and it was a fast read. I read another review where the reviewer said a book like this made them thankful for their suburban life and I have to agree. It’s amazing what Bunjevac’s family had to go through!

Sisters by Raina Telgemeier

Guys, I am a HUGE fan of Raina Telgemeier’s work! While I’ve loved her previous graphic novels, I didn’t think I would love this one because it’s about sisters and I only have brothers. Would I get it? Fortunately, this one was just as good as her previous books since it wasn’t just about sisters, but about growing up and friendship. I may not have been able to totally put myself into the character’s shoes, but I loved the story. I loved how we have the story of the family going on a car trip, paired with flashbacks of the past with Raina excited to be getting a sister, to not exactly liking her sister, to the two sisters getting a brother. Not only that, but there’s a bit of a deeper family drama going on underneath that. Sad and wonderful — I can’t wait to see what Raina comes up with next!

Have you read any of these graphic novels? What did you think? 


{Graphic Novel Week} Why Graphic Novels Are Cool (And Not Just For Children!)

Graphic Novel Week

When I started reading graphic novels in 2011, I was all over the place with the types I was reading. Being a huge fan of Neil Gaiman’s work, I knew I had to start reading the Sandman comics to see what they were all about … and I also started reading the graphic novel version of Twilight.

Yeah, two VERY different things.

While the Neil Gaiman comics definitely turned me onto telling a story with pictures and minimal words, the Twilight one turns me off, with its super simple, almost manga-esque quality and boring typography. From there I’d start to read some more middle grade graphic novels, like Smile by Raina Telgemeier and Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick, and I found myself slowly finding the kinds of graphic novels I liked to read.

What do I like in graphic novels? I like excellent artwork — even something done without colour and without any other mediums other than just drawing can be wonderful — and I like awesome stories. Just like a regular book, I want a graphic novel to suck me in right away and really have me hanging onto the story until the last page.

Thinking about it, the first time I really read a “graphic novel” would be when I was in middle school myself. I was a huge fan of the Archie comics and had a HUGE box full of them (which I, sadly, gave away — who knew they would be so big these days?). That brings up the point about graphic novels vs. comics. I’m one of those people who will lump everything together under the term “graphic novel,” but according to Matt Bowes of This Nerding Life, that’s really not what I should be doing:

“It’s a bit of a pet peeve of mine, stemming from the four years I worked at a comics store. To me, the entire medium is called “comics”, while a subset of the works available are “graphic novels”. The term is often used incorrectly to describe bound trade paperbacks of comic stories (collections of The Walking Dead, Fables, etc.). When Will Eisner thought up the term, he wanted it to mean an actual novel designed to be read in that form. I also have a little bit of a beef against the use of “graphic novel” to indicate some sort of higher purpose than “comics”. It’s kind of like someone saying “I only read literary fiction.””

See? For a newbie like me, I have a LOT to learn.

And really, there are a lot of newbies out there, people who want to read graphic novels but don’t know where to start, or people who think that reading a book with pictures (heaven forbid!) is only meant for kids, that it wouldn’t be something a grown-up should read.

Jennifer says, I’m an avid reader of graphic novels, but I haven’t always been. I always assumed they were just about superheroes (I hate Batman) or somehow just for kids, and it wasn’t until I found stories that spoke to me that I realized there’s a graphic novel out there for everyone. Now, I pick up a graphic novel when I need a break from dense books or when the next book in one of my favorite series comes out. Some of my personal favorites are Fables, Locke & Key, Saga, Dragon Age, Unwritten, Marvel 1602, the new 52 Aquaman, the new 52 Wonder Woman, and the graphic novelization of Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series.”

What is being a grown-up anyway? When I was younger all I wanted to do was read the grown-up books. I’d try to read Stephen King and my mom’s Danielle Steel books. I’d wander through the stacks of adult fiction and assume that since I was a reader, I’d totally get any of these books. And now that I’m an adult, I’m way more picky. That, and I don’t feel like I should stick to one niche when reading. If I want to read adult books, I’ll do it. If I want to read YA, I’ll go for it. Even if I want to read some middle grade books, I don’t start berating myself.

I know, some people might think that reading just for the sake of reading, or just picking up a book for mere enjoyment is wrong. The older we get shouldn’t mean the harder the books — we don’t always have to be challenging ourselves with what we’re reading. Though frankly, I find that reading a graphic novel is challenging. Whether you’re reading a graphic novel or a comic, it takes a little bit of work to really get into the atmosphere of what you’re reading. When you’re reading a novel, the author can use plenty of words to describe what’s going on, what the scenery is, what the smell of the scene is, but with a graphic novel, you don’t have all of that. It’s a matter of adjusting your brain and really deciphering the pictures on the page.

Margie (from Bumbles and Fairy-tales) says, “With graphic novels like One Summer and Through the Woods, I fell in love with the illustrations! The way that they carry the story so fluently just through pictures and minimal colors. The story-telling and/or conversations supported the illustrations enhancing the plot and yet, allowing your imagination to still build on what you’re reading …”

Not only that, but there’s the layout of graphic novels. I will admit that it took me a little while to get used to how to read a graphic novel. Sometimes it’s not all left to right reading … you have to follow the flow of the graphic novel or comic, what the author and illustrator intended. Some might be laid out simply, while others are more artistic. The fun in reading graphic novels is finding those needle in a haystack books — the books that are not only gorgeous to look at, but fun to read as well.

Laura (from Reading In Bed) says, “Skim was the first one I read and liked. The first one I ever read was about Louis Real, so non-fiction, and I found it pretty boring. I loved Skim because it was a good story and the drawings added to it. Gave it a certain mood.”

Graphic novels are cool because they have to convey so much in a shorter amount of time. While a scene could last a few chapters in a book, it could be condensed in a graphic novel. Just think of the power of words and illustration! I think that it’s kind of great that graphic novels exist for all ages and I feel that so long as we’re still exposing ourselves to books with no pictures (I know, I know), that including graphic novels into our reading schedule is perfect for the bookish diet. Just like adding in poetry, or audiobooks, or books in verse. Changing it up helps us change up our thinking and makes us concentrate a little more on a new medium and for me, there’s nothing wrong with that.

I’m still learning as I go, tumbling through the enourmous haystack of graphic novels that are out there. I still find ones that just don’t suit me, or ones that might be too boring for my taste (I’m just slightly warming up to non-fiction graphic novels), but every once in a while I find one that is absolutely amazing. That’s what I love about my journey as a reader.

Why do you love graphic novels? What are some of your favourites!