comics

Library Comic & Graphic Novel Haul

9:06 am

Library comic and graphic novel book haul: William Goldsmith, Russ Kick, Ben Gijsemans, Scott McCloud, and John Martz

After finally returning a large amount of books and films I knew I wasn't going to consume to work, I picked out a few things from our comics and graphic novel section that I've either had my eye on for a while or liked the look of the art. It's been a while since I've read a graphic novel that I hadn't heard of before so I'm excited to experience, maybe, some less popular titles.

Destination X - John Martz (2013, Nobrow Press) -- A tiny comic set in space. I know nothing about this but the art is adorable and I'm excited to get stuck in.

Reinventing Comics: How Imagination and Technology Are Revolutionising an Art Form - Scott McCloud (2000, William Morrow Paperbacks) -- Published in 2000, it will be interesting to see how much things have changed regarding comics since then. I'm expecting a lot. I've read McCloud's Understanding Comics (as well as his beautiful fiction piece, The Sculptor) so naturally it's time for me to pick up the next book in this non-fiction series. I've also met McCloud, so that's cool. /brag

Hubert - Ben Gijsemans (2016, Jonathan Cape) -- I'm now a bit nervous about this one after seeing Jean from Jean's Bookish Thoughts rating it with one star on Goodreads. I was drawn in my the art and lack of dialogue, so it's looking like a quick read. I believe this tells the story of a lonely man who spends his day wandering art galleries.

Vignettes of Ystov - William Goldsmith (2012, Penguin Random House) -- More stunning art. This graphic novel contains vignettes of a fictional city called Ystov. It looks a bit dark and mysterious, but with a lot of human emotion and experiences.

(Not pictured because it was too heavy to carry home with the rest) The Graphic Canon, Vol. 1: From the Epic of Gilgamesh to Shakespeare to Dangerous Liasons - ed. Russ Kick (2012, Seven Stories Press) -- This has been on my Amazon wishlist for years. The Graphic Canon is a series of anthologies containing extracts from various comic and graphic novel adaptations of works of literature. Flicking through this copy as I took it off the shelf I could see a section reprinted from a graphic novel of The Odyssey that I've actually already read and enjoyed. If anything this will be a fun way to discover new things to read.

M x

reading

Series Wrap-Up: The Lunar Chronicles

9:00 am

The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer review - Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, Fairest, Winter

The Lunar Chronicles is a four-book young adult science fiction series (plus one novella and a lot of short stories), doubling up as a retelling of numerous fairy tales and a dystopian adventure set in a futuristic Japan. The series takes the main characters from the fairy tales Cinderella (Cinder), Red Riding Hood (Scarlet), Rapunzel (Cress), and Snow White (Winter) and adapts them to this new setting, moulding backstories and personality traits around it. 

The world is one where citizens of Earth are at odds with a society that lives on the moon: the 'Lunars'. The Lunars have powers to glamour themselves and appear as they wish to, along with elements of mind control and a tendency to be quite sick and twisted. They are ruled over by Levana (who gets her own fascinating backstory in the novella Fairest) who is eager to have the Earth for herself as well as Luna. Back on Earth, we have humans living among androids and, more importantly, cyborgs who are human/android mixes. Levana hates cyborgs, because she's an evil dictator and they always need to be a little bit racist, don't they?

We are introduced in Cinder to, well, Cinder. She's a mechanic and a cyborg, adopted by a caring father who dies and leaves her with, you guessed it, her evil stepmother and stepsisters. Her stepmother looks down on her and treats her as if she is simply a machine, although we learn through this series that androids very much have feelings too. This is where we begin our journey, at humble beginnings, but everything picks up very quickly. Throughout the series we are introduced to more characters with their own stories and clever twists on the traditional fairy tales, but I can't go into that without giving all of the juicy details away.

One thing I can initially praise this series on is the fact it contains a believable array of people from different places around the world, something I never really associate young adult fiction with. Our main character, Cinder, is Japanese, as well as Kai, the Crown Prince of the Eastern Commonwealth. In the fourth book we are introduced to Princess Winter who is black, and so is her father. The majority of the first book takes place in Japan and I'm fairly sure through the entire series there are no parts set in what is future America or the United Kingdom. A non-white female protagonist for a young adult series is still, sadly, quite a rare thing. One of my gripes, however, would be that, as far as I'm aware, there are no non-heterosexual couples in this series, to the point at which is gets annoying (see: predictable) and doesn't stray from your usual Disney (see: man and lady love each other) fairy tale format.

Back to the good stuff: the world-building in this series of phenomenal. Perhaps because Meyer has based this on Earth but perhaps not, these books are so engrossing and I found myself constantly eager to find out more about this world and its dynamics. When reading you are deeply entrenched in its politics, meeting envoys from other nations and hearing discussions on contracts and unions and war. This is where the retellings really stand out for me. The stories have been uprooted and placed somewhere completely new, but still work in a way that make you put the book down and go, 'Wow, that was so smart and I didn't see it coming.' I'm really hoping this is the same response I have when I pick up Meyer's new series which is a retelling of Alice in Wonderland, starting with Heartless (being released in November by Feiwel & Friends).

The Lunar Chronicles is a series I am genuinely sad to see end, and I wish I could be more eloquent when speaking about it. I want more from these characters after being spoiled by such an entertaining story and so many extra short stories released to fill in the little details. Marissa Meyer, never stop writing.

M x

P.S. So, there's people on the moon but there's not anyone on Mars. Where are the Martians? Where are they???

reading

New Summer Releases for Review: Lindy West, Jessica Valenti, and Rufi Thorpe

7:23 pm

New summer releases for review - Sex Object: A Memoir by Jessica Valenti, Shrill by Lindy West, and From Fang With Love by Rufi Thorpe

*I was fortunate to receive these three books for review from Quercus, Corsair, and Dey Street Books. All comments now and future reviews are and will be my honest opinions.*

Published on May 19th by Quercus

I had never heard of Lindy West until I saw reviews for this book, but the premise has absolutely sold me. I'm really enjoying reading memoirs and non-fiction from women at the moment so this will be read in the next couple of weeks. Lindy was also recently on Woman's Hour speaking about her experiences when an internet troll impersonated her dead father. Really eye-opening and her compassion is inspiring.
'From a painfully shy childhood in which she tried, unsuccessfully, to hide her big body and even bigger opinions; to her public war with stand-up comedians over rape jokes; to her struggle to convince herself, and then the world, that fat people have value; to her accidental activism and never-ending battle royale with Internet trolls, Lindy narrates her life with a blend of humor and pathos that manages to make a trip to the abortion clinic funny and wring tears out of a story about diarrhea.'

Sex Object: A Memoir* - Jessica Valenti
Published on June 7th by Dey Street Books, cover design by Lynn Buckley

Jessica Valenti's writing, including her pieces in the Guardian, is something I've been following for years now so when I saw she had a new release about her own experiences I knew I needed a copy right now. I would recommend the episode of Ctrl Alt Delete podcast where Emma Gannon interviews Jessica, as it is both insightful and hilarious. Her attitude is inspiring. Actually, listen to every episode of the podcast. You have time.
'Sex Object explores the painful, funny, embarrassing, and sometimes illegal moments that shaped Valenti's adolescence and young adulthood in New York City, revealing a much shakier inner life than the confident persona she has cultivated as one of the most recognizable feminists of her generation.'

Dear Fang, With Love* - Rufi Thorpe
Published on June 2nd by Corsair

Out of these three books, this is certainly the one I'm most excited about. It has exceptionally good reviews on Goodreads. Scrolling through, I can't see anything lower than four stars. I haven't heard much about it from the blogging community so I'm thinking it's going to be a quiet hit. Also this is a wonderfully floppy proof copy and I keep finding myself flopping it around just for the fun of it. I am an adult.
'Lucas and Katya were boarding school seniors when, blindingly in love, they decided to have a baby. Seventeen years later, after years of absence, Lucas is a weekend dad, newly involved in his daughter Vera's life. But after Vera suffers a terrifying psychotic break at a high school party, Lucas takes her to Lithuania, his grandmother's homeland, for the summer. [...] Skillfully weaving family mythology and Lithuanian history with a story of mental illness, inheritance, young love, and adventure, Rufi Thorpe has written a wildly accomplished, stunningly emotional book.'
M x

reading

Series Wrap-Up: The Raven Cycle

8:42 am

Book review of Maggie Stiefvater's The Raven Cycle: The Raven Boys, The Dream Thieves, Blue Lily Lily Blue, and The Raven King

Yes, The Raven Cycle. The series you've probably been hearing about left, right and centre if you're at all any part of the publishing industry or the book blogging world. You may have no idea what it's about or whether it's worth dedicating your time to reading, so I'm here to briefly fill you in (avoiding spoilers at all costs!)

The Raven Cycle is a quadrilogy of books by Maggie Steifvater, author of The Scorpio Races, the Wolves of Mercy Falls series, and the Books of Faerie series. I had never read anything by her before picking up this series so I can't pass any judgement on her previous writings. All I've heard is that The Raven Cycle is probably her most widely enjoyed series. The series revolves around a girl called Blue, her enormous family of clairvoyants and mystics, and a group of boys from the local private school, dubbed 'The Raven Boys'. One night whilst using her powers of boosting energy to aid her mother watch over the 'soon-to-be-dead', she sees a boy about her age's ghost wandering apart from the others. She does not know him, but asks his name. His name is Gansey and he will die in the next year. This is where it all begins.

Eventually Blue comes to meet these mysterious (and initially very irritating) Raven Boys and recognises one of them as Gansey. The group becomes close and we learn about Gansey's own mission to find a long-lost king supposedly buried around the town in which they live. He is accompanied by the quiet Noah, the brooding Ronan, and the resentful Adam. Prepare to watch the best development of characters in a young adult fantasy book. Steifvater finely crafts realistic characters with satisfying story arcs without the need for unnecessary drama. These characters can be messy, but they don't act like your young adult protagonist and seem to actually have an iota of self awareness. This, along with a compelling and magical storyline, is the draw of The Raven Cycle.

It's hard to go into the story that spans the novels without giving away any spoilers, but it is magical, and it is mystical, and it takes you away to a normal-town world drenched in wonder that feels like it could actually happen. Stiefvater crafts a mythology that sounds straight like it comes from a tale of King Arthur. Throughout I felt inklings of Morgana and Lancelot, but also didn't feel like everything was being spelled out for me. There were gaps in the narrative left where the reader was allowed to work things out for themselves, and that's why this felt like such a stride from the YA I've read in the past.

If you like magic and mythology, pick up The Raven Boys. Then The Dream Thieves. Then Blue Lily, Lily Blue. And then The Raven King. Be as pleasantly surprised as I was and spend the moments after you're finished reading a chapter staring into space and feeling that all of what you have read is real.

The Raven Cycle was published by Scholastic and the stunning cover art is by Adam S. Doyle.

M x

reading

TBR Takedown 4.0

7:42 pm

TBR Takedown reading list - Men Explain Things to me (Rebecca Solnit), Frank (Jon Ronson), The Sleeping Prince (Melinda Salisbury), and Killing Sarai (J.A. Redmerski)

It's that time of the year again when Megan decides to do a TBR challenge in a week and knows she won't manage it because life responsibilities. However I know I can give it a good attempt if I read on the train every day rather than listen to podcasts. So here are my book choices for the TBR Takedown 4.0 which is taking place June 20th-26th (next week!), as well as the challenge categories they fit in.

Men Explain Things to Me - Rebecca Solnit - 'A book that's been on your TBR shelf over a year'
At less than 200 pages, I decided this collection of essays on various subjects including domestic violence, Virginia Woolf, and marriage inequality would be an interesting quick read for this challenge. I own a beautiful physical copy of it too.

The Sleeping Prince - Melinda Salisbury - 'An unread sequel sitting on your TBR shelf'
I read the first book in this series, The Sin Eater's Daughter, back in February last year and really enjoyed it. This sequel was released in May and I have no idea why I am only just considering reading it. Hopefully I remember what happened previously. I'll be reading this as an ebook.

Killing Sarai - J.A. Redmerski - 'A first book in a series on your TBR shelf' and 'An out of your comfort zone book on your TBR shelf'
I have never read a dark new adult romance book before and probably would never have intended to if it wasn't for Riley's deep love for this series. I'm intrigued as to what the hook is that keeps people coming back for more (there are SIX books currently in this series). I'll also be reading this as an ebook.

Frank: The True Story that Inspired the Movie - Jon Ronson - 'A book from your most recent book haul'
Looking back at my 23rd birthday book haul, I've naturally decided to pick the smallest book there to read for this challenge. Maybe as an added bonus I'll watch the film too.

M x

reading

Book Review: Wolf in White Van by John Darnielle

8:25 am

Book review: Wolf in White Van by John Darnielle

John Darnielle's Wolf in White Van was a very new experience for me, but one I am now craving in other books. I cannot compare it to anything I've read before.

Wolf in White Van is told in non-chronological order from the viewpoint of Sean, a man living in seclusion since a disfiguring accident when he was a teenager. Over the course of the story we slowly get given pieces of what happened to him, but we also are given another story alongside of what's happened since. In his attempt to find something to do, he creates a play-by-post game called Trace Italian. Players find adverts for his game in magazines and comics, send off for instructions, and begin the game, sending in their moves to Sean who then responds with their progress in the game. As a lover of turn-based games and RPGs, this was the most engaging part of the story for me (as well as the frequent references to Conan, comics, fanzines, and sci-fi). Two teenagers become deeply involved in the game and, eventually, tragedy strikes. Sean is brought to justice for his actions, if it was really his fault at all.

Now, this is an odd book. As I said before, I haven't quite read anything like this. The structure is convoluted as you're thrust between Sean's life pre-injury and his life post-Trace Italian. Many sections of the book include long passages from Trace Italian itself, depicting a future America where savages roam the street and resources are scarce. It only occurred to me after reading that the seclusion in this wilderness is probably supposed to be symbolic of Sean's seclusion in his home, along with troubled relationships with his parents and weird experiences as he ventures outside and encounters members of the public.

I don't have a great deal to say about Wolf in White Van other than the fact I loved it and I want to spread the word about it. It was a unique tale told in a fun way. It made me yearn for a game like Trace Italian, even though I'm not sure if I would have the patience for it these days. Sean is an interesting and troubled character to read from, and I'm really looking forward to what Darnielle brings out next. My one criticism would be that I wanted more from the perspective of the teenagers who get in too deep with the game in the real world. I feel like they could have had an interesting perspective, one that is sorely missed.

Wolf in White Van was published in June 2014 by Farrar, Straus, and Giroux. The hypnotising cover art is by Timothy Goodman.

M x

reading

Book Review: Becoming by Laura Jane Williams

9:12 am

Laura Jane Williams - Becoming: Sex, Second Changes & Figuring Out Who the Hell I Am memoir

'Laura Jane Williams, you've done it again.' This is what I say every time I read a new blog post of Laura's, closing my laptop lid and having a good old think. The most recent time I said this was about an hour ago when I finished the final page of her debut book, Becoming. Gosh, that was a good book, and I honestly didn't expect any less from her.

I've been following Laura's blog, Superlatively Rude, for longer than I can estimate. I get all of her email alerts when she writes a new post and newsletters detailing what she's been enjoying over the previous weeks. I favourite her tweets (or whatever 'favouriting' is called now, 'liking' maybe?) and would certainly call myself a fan of her writing (but in a less cringey way, because we're all human). When I saw she had finally got the book deal she deserved, I hit 'preorder' right away. I have since learned how important preordering is for book sales so, preorder books you're excited about, kids! Honestly I hadn't preordered anything in my life other than new Harry Potter books and the second Arkham game (two years in advance, I may add, and then I cancelled two weeks before release because I had spent my whole student loan). I digress. 

The subtitle of Becoming is Sex, Second Chances, & Figuring Out Who the Hell I Am, which is a very good subtitle because it summarises what it's about a lot better than I could attempt. Now, despite what the tabloids are saying, this is not a 'sex memoir'. This is not a list of Laura's sexual exploits. They clearly didn't 'get' the book. This is the story of Laura's becoming - her journey from hurting, through celibacy, to clarity and understanding. When Laura's long-term boyfriend breaks up with her out of the blue and, very quickly, ends up dating (and marrying) her friend, she is left devestated and unsure of who she really is. Having grown up always with someone by her side, now being alone left her very in scary new territory. This is where our story begins, and it's a real rollercoaster.

We learn about Laura's sex life post-breakup in a lot of detail, but that's not what the book is about, and that's not why you should pick it up. You should pick it up to learn about her journey, one you may or may not personally relate to. I have never experienced anything like Laura experienced but it did not make it any less of an engaging or gripping read. She travels the world and through her words you can truly feel her life in Rome, and Paris, and America, surrounded by new people, sunshine, cityscapes, and nature. I'm a huge fan of books on people figuring out who they are (your good old YA coming-of-age tale or your feel-good memoir), and it was nice to read one that didn't always make you...feel good. There are a lot of strong and unpleasant emotions in this book but they are what make it that much more real.

As a side-note, another part of the experience of reading Laura's book that I loved is thinking every now and again 'hey, I remember a blog post about this happening!'. It was like we've all taken a journey together as one complicated, confused, but loving family.

Becoming: Sex, Second Chances, & Figuring Out Who the Hell I Am was released in hardback and ebook by Hodder & Stoughton on 2nd June 2016. Pick it up now, now, now! Oh, and that gorgeous cover art is by Anna Woodbine in the Hodder Art department. Look on her website and see all of the stunning covers you recognise. Honestly, she's done all of the good ones.

M x

food

A Mini-Tour of Vegan London

11:16 am


Pret a Manger acai breakfast bowl, Loving Earth Mint Dark Chocolate, and Rebel Kitchen Cacao Mylk

Pret a MangerWC1 - Acai Breakfast Bowl (Acai berry puree, bananas, gluten free granola, pomegranate seeds, and grated apple).

Planet OrganicWC1 - Loving Earth Raw Organic Mint Dark Chocolate (made with cacao beans and coconut nectar), Rebel Kitchen Mylk Organic Coconut Milk Drink with Cacao.

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For my wonderful mother's birthday, we decided to take a mini-tour of vegan food spots in London. We were hungry. We are always hungry. Maybe not hungry, but we always want to eat, so this was an exciting plan. One so exciting, it sort of overtook our plans to go and see some museums and we ended up walking and eating and eating some more. 

When we discovered our vegan ice-cream hotspot (or should that be coldspot, hur hur) didn't open until midday, we knew some pitstops would need to be made. I was happy to find a Pret a Manger that actually stocked their new (ish) acai breakfast bowls (thank you London), which we devoured and would most definitely eat again. Our tastebuds were woken up and we headed off for some more food.

I know Planet Organic would never let me down (other than being very overpriced) so we headed there next and picked up chocolate and drinks. We were very happy to find vegan chocolate that tasted just like regular chocolate, with my Loving Earth Raw Organic Mint Dark Chocolate tasting EXACTLY like Fry's Peppermint Cream, an old favourite. The Rebel Kitchen Mylk was slightly less amazing (it's still half-full in my fridge) but still tasty. I expected the coconut flavour of the milk to be overpowered by the cacao but, alas, no. We will both definitely be picking up Loving Earth chocolate in the future as it was reasonably priced and just too good.

Yorica vegan ice-cream

Yorica!, W1 - [Left] Cookies and Cream and Blackcurrant ice-cream, [Right] Chocolate and Beetroot ice-cream with mini marshmallows.

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We finally made it to one of our actual planned food stops. Yorica! sells vegan, gluten-free, nut-free, everything-free but still ridiculously delicious ice-cream, frozen yoghurt, and in the future will be selling smoothies. Mum chose two flavours (cookies and cream, and blackcurrant) with no toppings, and I chose chocolate and beetroot ice-cream with mini-marshmallows. All vegan, very well-priced, and the staff were incredibly friendly. There was a fantastic range of flavours (moringa, lots of chocolate, a buttery one) and toppings (Oreos, gummy bears, passionfruit). At this point I was feeling a bit full, but onwards to more food.

222 Veggie Vegan buffet lunch

222 Veggie Vegan, W14 - Pesto pasta, broccoli in pumpkin gravy, potatoes and plantain, rice, chickpea and bean curry, and quinoa salad.

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222 Veggie Vegan was our final food stop where we finally settled for lunch. Between 12 and 3:30pm they serve food in a buffet style so we were very pleased to be sitting with food within two minutes. There was a lot to choose from, both hot and cold, and for once I actually cleared my plate. Everything was flavorsome, and the broccoli in pumpkin gravy was a fast favourite. Even thinking about it now is making me sad that it isn't right in front of me. I was happy that there wasn't a falafel or hummus in sight because I don't like/can't eat either and they seem such a staple in vegan eateries. Once again, incredibly friendly staff, two thumbs up from us both (four thumbs in total).

I'm hungry.

M x

P.S. We ate baked fries from Leon waiting for the train home. Obviously.