Tag Archives: graphic novel

A Crop of Mini Reviews

My posting schedule doesn’t allow me to review all the books I’ve read, and I like it that way. Not all books are meant to be talked about at length, so I skip them and only mention those that are either very good, ARCs, or very bad. Sometimes, though, these mini reviews really come in handy. These are all YA and MG reads from November and December.

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Blankets by Craig Thompson
Published in 2003 by Top Shelf Productions.

Links: Goodreads.

Source: borrowed from my brother (paperback).

Genre: YA contemporary graphic novel.

My rating:

I read Blankets back in high school when my mom and dad gave my brother this copy as a present. It’s a beautiful story of a boy growing up in a highly religious environment, his experiences with faith, first love, friendship, and family. I didn’t remember the story well, so I picked it up when I saw it at my parents’ apartment – my brother didn’t take it with him when he moved out (dun dun dun! This only makes sense if you’ve read the story and maybe not even then, sorry.) It also seems to be largely autobiographical?

I really liked the artwork – it’s all done in black and white, so it’s really powerful. Thompson’s style is beautiful and clean, though he sometimes veers into fantastic shapes and creatures that break up the harsh reality Craig (yeah, the MC’s name is the same as the author’s) has to face every day. If you get a chance, definitely give this one a try, it really packs a punch.

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Paper Towns/Lažna mesta by John Green
Published in 2014 by Mladinska knjiga .

Links: Goodreads.

Source: borrowed from my mom (paperback).

Genre: YA contemporary.

My rating:

I did not enjoy this John Green novel. *le gasp*

I read The Fault in Our Stars a couple of years ago, before I started blogging, and really, really liked it (like most everyone I know). Then I read Looking for Alaska and reviewed it here. It was good, I liked it, but I definitely wasn’t as star-struck as I was before.

And now my faith in John Green’s writing is failing, because Paper Towns were a disappointment. I read the Slovenian translation (by Neža Božič), which is actually really good, so it didn’t play a role in my lower rating. I know Green has a really loyal following so if you find it unbearable to hear his books insulted, please exit through the side door. Thanks.

My main problem was with Margo. Without going into spoilers, she’s a spoiled (ha!) little brat and I disliked her immensely. Quentin was cool but the entire story was actually very similar to Looking for Alaska when you think about it! I wanted to slap some sense into all of them but couldn’t, because they’re fictional.

And then there was the pretentiousness. I’m sorry but do you know many 18-year-olds who quote Whitman but are also very cool and hip and generally the most intelligent beings around? I’ve read enough to know when an author did not kill his darlings (and he really should have). Parts of the story were horribly long-winded and really dragged along. Look, I had my fair share of stoned conversations about existential questions when I was that age but nobody ever said those conversations were meant to be written down, let alone read my millions of random people. Ugh.

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The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge
by Lion UK.

Links: Goodreads.

Source: purchased (paperback).

Genre: MG historical fantasy.

My rating:

The Little White Horse is one of my childhood favorites. I think I must have read it at least five times when I was younger – in Slovenian translation, of course (it is very good). But I wanted to read the original, so I bought myself the English version a couple of years ago and the book has been sitting on my shelf until now. I’m really happy I re-read it! I see it with completely different eyes now but the nostalgia is strong, so I can’t help but love it still.

Of course there are some problematic elements to the story of the orphaned Maria who comes to live at Moonacre Manor. There’s the notion that ladies don’t get angry, or loud, and that women are represented by the Moon while men belong to the Sun; there’s the overwhelming religious element and a number of other details that I could name. But they didn’t bother me in the least when I was little and it’s also wrong to judge the works from the past with today’s criteria.

So I’d still recommend this as a classic work of English children’s literature, and I’ll be reading it to my kids when the time comes, because it’s a pretty fairy tale and I want to share it with them. But if you’re looking for a modern, enlightened fantasy, this most certainly isn’t it.

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Have you read any of these? 

What did you think?

I’d love to hear from you! :)

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Saga (Vol 1-4) by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples

Saga (Saga Volumes 1-4) by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples
Published in 2012-2015 by Image Comics.

Links: Goodreads.

Source: purchased (paperback).

Genre: sci-fi graphic novel.

My rating:

Saga is an epic space opera/fantasy comic book series created by writer Brian K. Vaughan and artist Fiona Staples. The series is heavily influenced by Star Wars, and based on ideas Vaughan conceived both as a child and as a parent. It depicts two lovers from long-warring extraterrestrial races, Alana and Marko, fleeing authorities from both sides of a galactic war as they struggle to care for their newborn daughter, Hazel, who occasionally narrates the series.

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saga22015 was the year of trying out new things (sort of), which included graphic novels. I hit jackpot with my first choice (Nimona was fantastic) and continued to have good luck with Saga. This is an ongoing series with five currently published “volumes” (each includes six chapters which are also published separately, as far as I can tell) while the sixth is scheduled to appear this year. I have read four of them and will be buying the sequel soon. 

I gave five stars/hearts to the first three parts and four to the fourth; I thought the story is getting a bit too fragmented – and batshit crazy, if you’ll forgive me for saying so. Space is a vast playground and it’s easy to get lost if you don’t take care – and it just looks like the authors are opening some doors that will require a lot of energy to close. I’m not sure how many parts there will be or if the authors even know that (I did no research on the matter, sorry), but they seem to be pushing ahead at full steam with no end in sight.

saga3This is the story of a family where the mother and father are from opposite sides of a decades-long war. Their baby, Hazel, who is the narrator of the story, is probably the first child of mixed race (ever? in a while? who knows?) and very dangerous because of it. So people are out to get them, assassins are hired, and there are some ex-lovers thrown into the mix so it gets more fun. And while I do understand why the authors wish to give the side characters their separate stories, their lives sometimes take up valuable page time (I find that in comics, economy is key. Everything just takes such a long time to say! Pictures take up way more page space than words.).

But I love the main story. I mean, both Marko and Alana make some spectacularly bad decisions in part 4, but their lives are hardly easy. Hazel is an interesting narrator, she reports on everything, including her parents’ sex lives, which is kind of weird. I do wonder how far into her life the story will go – she’s currently still a toddler! :) And space toddlers aren’t that different from human, Earth-born toddlers, let me tell you that.

saga4The story is hilarious. It’s also really gruesome sometimes (seriously, there is a lot of gore, you’ve been warned) and very, very explicit when it comes to sex. I think this might be a part of its attraction? Most of the characters have really unusual sexual lives, I liked this exploration into non-heterosexual territories, especially when it came to couples who belong to completely different species (though why anyone would want to get involved with a sexy spider is beyond me). I do think a lot of these scenes are there to shock and amuse and hardly contribute to the main story, but they have this pulpy quality to them that doesn’t take itself too seriously.

I like the artwork, it’s crazy imaginative and very expressive. I haven’t read enough graphic novels to really form a personal taste in comic book illustrators, but I can say that it’s very different from Nimona, for example, which has a much cleaner style. Both are great and I think they serve their genres well. 

I’ll definitely be continuing with the series though I should really check out how many parts it’s supposed to have, just so I have some timeframe in mind. 

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Have you read Saga? Did you enjoy it?

Do you have other graphic novel recommendations that I might enjoy?

I’d love to hear from you! :)

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Nimona by Noelle Stevenson

Nimona by Noelle Stevenson
Published 2015 by Harper Collins.

Links: Goodreads.

Source: purchased (paperback).

Genre: YA fantasy/sci-fi graphic novel.

My rating:

Nimona is an impulsive young shapeshifter with a knack for villainy. Lord Ballister Blackheart is a villain with a vendetta. As sidekick and supervillain, Nimona and Lord Blackheart are about to wreak some serious havoc. Their mission: prove to the kingdom that Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin and his buddies at the Institution of Law Enforcement and Heroics aren’t the heroes everyone thinks they are.

But as small acts of mischief escalate into a vicious battle, Lord Blackheart realizes that Nimona’s powers are as murky and mysterious as her past. And her unpredictable wild side might be more dangerous than he is willing to admit.

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Gah, I’ve had this post saved as a draft for months. I read this book… ages ago, it seems, but it’s stuck with me and I even included it in my “best of 2015” post because it’s great. And I’ve successfully made my husband read it (he loved it, too) and now my copy is with my brother who loves comics and graphic novels and I’m waiting for his thanks, to be honest. :)

Nimona is the first graphic novel I’ve read in a long, long while. I used to read some comics when I was in high school (mostly the stuff my brother bought, so PeanutsCalvin and Hobbes and Dilbert were featured strongly) and I read Blankets, which was really nice (I have to re-read it sometime soon) and The Invention of Hugo Cabret, which was cool but not amazing. And then I just… stopped. I don’t even know why. But then I saw Nimona popping up all over the book blogs that I like and everyone loved it and the artwork looked cute but special so I gave in and ordered it. Best. Decision. Ever. (Okay, maybe not ever but it was really great.)

nimona7Nimona (the character) is a shape shifter with a tendency of turning into sharks at unexpected moments. Her origin and the exact extent of capabilities are a mystery and she pops up in Lord Ballister Blackheart’s secret lair and joins forces with him to destroy the Institute of Law Enforcement and Heroics, which isn’t as heroic as they would like everyone to believe. Their foremost champion is Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin, Ballister’s old buddy-turned-nemesis.

I really liked both the plot and the characters of this graphic novel. I was afraid of the characters falling flat because there can be no descriptions or whatever in this type of story, you only get their actions and dialogue. But Stevenson did a great job giving these three main characters some serious layers (and complicated relationships <3) – and even the villains are cool.

nimona6I also loved the mashup of sci-fi and fantasy: dragons combined with laser guns and mad scientists may sound like an overkill but Stevenson somehow makes it work without the illustrations being over-the-top crazy. Her artwork is clean and cute but never doubt it: there are some serious issues tackled in this novel, so it’s not just fluff and explosions.

Nimona is a standalone graphic novel – and while this is great because the story is concise and the pacing amazing, I kind of wish to read more about these guys. I’ll most definitely be reading whatever Stevenson does next (I know she’s the artist for Lumberjanes but I’m waiting for a collected edition of some kind…). Oh and if you like reading about Star Wars, feminism and geekery in general, I highly suggest following her on Twitter.

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Have you read Nimona? What did you think?

Do you have any similar graphic novel recs for me? (I’m reading Saga, too.)

I’d love to hear from you! :)

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