Graphic Novel Fiend – A Collection of Mini Reviews

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Solid State by Jonathan Coulton | ★★★☆☆ | I found this book at my local comic shop and had no idea it was a concept graphic novel paired with an album by Jonathan Coulton. I’d never heard of the artist before and to be honest, the music didn’t make much sense for a sci fi graphic novel in my opinion. I was expecting something more electronic and space-y and the album I ended up listening to isn’t really my style. The graphic novel itself was fairly interesting and unique, albeit a little preachy. The pacing and timelines were a little confusing as well, though the art was clean and easy to follow. All in all, this was a fairly decent graphic novel, but I just wasn’t a huge fan.

The Stonekeeper (Amulet, #1) by Kazu Kabuishi | ★★★☆☆ | It’s hard to judge the first volume of a graphic novel series. I did enjoy the artwork and the story line has potential. I’ll definitely pick up the second one to see where it goes.

Lumberjanes #3 by Noelle Stevenson | ★★★☆☆ | Ehhhh. I love the style and idea of this series, but this volume just wasn’t my favorite. I wanted a more cohesive story, but the snippets of different stories threw me off a bit. I may check out future volumes from the library.

Deadly Class #1 – 2 by Rick Remender | ★★★☆☆ | I borrowed four volumes of this series (are there only 4?) from my best friend, and I’m not sure that I want to finish it. It’s an interesting story and the art style is on point. I love how the darkness is conveyed through color and the various monochromatic spreads are pretty dang cool. This series is just darker and grittier and cringier than I like.

Goliath by Tom Gauld | ★★★★★ | The quickest read gets the highest score. I love this take on the classic story. It’s short and simple, but packs a punch. The simple scenery combined with the sparse dialogue painted a melancholy viewpoint of Goliath and I am so there for it. Read this book!

My Friend Dahmer by Derf Backderf | ★★★★★ | What a piece of work. I am unashamedly obsessed with stories about murder and mayhem and this graphic novel fills that void. It deals with Dahmer’s early years and was created by a classmate of Dahmer. The art style matches the tone and the subject matter really well, too. This is a great one to read before listening to Last Podcast on the Left’s three-part series on Dahmer; If you’re interested in serial killers and weird occult stuff, this is your podcast and this is your book.

The Adventure Zone: Here There Be Gerblins by the McElroys | ★★★★★ | Okay, these last two book reviews are just me raving about podcasts, I get that. But seriously, this podcast is the best Dungeons and Dragons podcast. They’re definitely more story-based than rules-based, but it makes for a great podcast and this graphic novel follows Magnus, Merle, and Taako in the first story in the Balance arc (start here).

Review: Turtles All the Way Down

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“I realized in the silence that followed that I hadn’t spoken since answering Davis’s compliment about my shirt. Davis, Daisy, and Mychal eventually went back to talking about Star Wars and the size of the universe and traveling faster than light. ‘Star Wars is the American religion,’ Davis said at one point, and Mychal said, ‘I think religion is the American religion,’ and even though I laughed with them, it felt like I was watching the whole thing from somewhere else, like I was watching a movie about my life instead of living it.”

S U M M A R Y

Turtles All The Way Down by John Green is a novel that on the surface is about a girl named Aza who, with her friend Daisy, is searching for clues on the disappearance of Indianapolis billionaire Russel Pickett to claim the $100,000 reward. In actuality, this story is a character dive into an OCD sixteen-year-old and the intricacies of her relationships.

R E V I E W

★★★★☆

I was pretty conflicted about what to rate this book. To be fair, I’m not the target audience and I’m not a huge fan of books set in high school. However, I read many reviews that rated this book poorly due to the fantastical and unrealistic plot elements and in my opinion, Green set the story up like this on purpose. Aza’s mental disability causes her to experience life in third person. She seems to stumble through life and these spectacular events she experiences contrast against her preoccupied and uninterested behavior. That’s why this book isn’t really about the missing person investigation. It’s about living with OCD while trying to maintain relationships and handle the stress of daily life.

This is why I enjoyed Turtles. Aza felt so real and her anxieties hit way too close to home sometimes. The book normalizes therapy and emphasizes the importance of friendships over romantic relationships. It’s a character-driven story that I would definitely encourage young people to pick up. Just stay away from An Abundance of Katherines

The one major thing that irked me, though, was Green’s disdain for Indianapolis. Yeah, Indiana isn’t great, but Indy is this little liberal oasis in a sea of red. I can understand a teenager feeling disdain for anywhere they grow up, I just like my city and John Green got it all wrong, dang it! (Also it’s the Indy Star, not The Indianapolis Star; plus other details that probably make sense for readers from other places but annoy me).

All in all, I enjoyed this book far more than I expected to. Good job, Green. I may even pick up your next one whenever that happens.

May Wrap Up

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May review pie chart

I had a pretty decent reading month in May, all things considering. I’m recovering from a major reading slump and after slowly getting though Misery, I decided to continue my read-through of Tamora Pierce, which was basically nostalgia-juice and got me back on track.

Misery by Stephen King | ★★★☆☆ | Ehhhhhhhh. I keep going back and forth on my opinion about Stephen King. Yes, this book was suspenseful and made me feel many emotions. Around the second half of the book, I couldn’t put this down. On the other hand, every King book I’ve ever read has pacing issues and I struggle to stay focused and actually read at certain points. Also weird sex stuff. I probably would have loved this a hell of a lot more when I was in high school and adored King, so I rate this 3 out of 5 severed appendages for nostalgia.

Lioness Rampant (Song of the Lioness #4) by Tamora Pierce | ★★★★★ | This was a lovely conclusion to the Song of the Lioness series, Pierce’s first series in the Tortall universe. As a kid, I was only able to read the Tortall books that my library had available, and I had never finished this particular set of books before. Even though some things are spoiled in later books, I loved reading about Alanna and felt really empowered throughout her journeys. The third and fourth books have some adult themes, so that may have been why I couldn’t find them back then. Regardless, even now I feel like I could learn to sword fight the patriarchy.

Wild Magic and Wolf-Speaker (Immortals #1 & 2) by Tamora Pierce | ★★★★★ & ★★★★☆ | Right after finishing Lioness Rampant, I went straight to the Immortals series. This was the series I re-read constantly when I was young. Daine was my goddamn hero. As a kid, I definitely wrote what I now know is fanfiction about Daine and her animal friends. However, I totally get why some people don’t like this particular series in the Tortall universe. I can see the pacing issues and the characters weren’t as relatable and real as I remember. At some points, Daine is treated much older or much younger than she really is and there is definitely one icky moment where (as a 12-year-old) she is sexualized by one of the teenage boys. It was taken care of in the story, but it’s definitely an unecessary moment that probably wouldn’t have been published if it came out in 2018. Despite that, I still love this series and Tamora Pierce for shaping my childhood and fueling my love for fantasy. Eventually, I will do a full review when I have finished re-reading (and reading some books for the first time) the entire series as it stands.

The Humans by Matt Haig | ★★★★★ | This is a new favorite for me and deserved its own blog post. See my full review here.

Fables: The Deluxe Edition Vol. 3 by Bill Willingham | ★★★★☆ | Surprisingly, I only read one graphic novel all month. Fables is my comic crack, though. I’m slowly collecting all the volumes in the Deluxe Edition and volume 4 is waiting for me. I can’t review this without spoiling the entire series, but I read these when I was in high school and have been enjoying going back through. This is one that was obviously written by a man, though. As a childfree and pro-choice woman, this scene came off as condescending and forced as Dr. Swineheart is trying to talk to Snow about alternative options when she is clearly not okay mentally or physically with her pregnancy:

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I N   C O N C L U S I O N

It was a very productive month, even if it was flooded with Tamora Pierce books. I re-read a lot of books, but sometimes when you’re slumping or having a bad time you just need to re-read old favorites. Next month I may take a break from Tamora Pierce and continue my read/re-read of Terry Pratchett instead. Let me know your thoughts on the books I read this month!

“The Humans” Review

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“I know that some of you reading this are convinced humans are a myth, but I am here to state that they do actually exist. For those that don’t know, a human is a real bipedal life form of midrange intelligence, living a largely deluded existence on a small, waterlogged planet in a very lonely corner of the universe.”

 

S U M M A R Y

The Humans by Matt Haig is an interesting blend of science fiction and contemporary, about an alien that takes over a human’s identity to stop a mathematical principle called the Riemann Hypothesis from being solved. This hypothesis is essentially the solution to the pattern at which prime numbers occur, and according to the aliens, it would lead to catastrophe in human hands. Our main protagonist takes over the life of Professor Andrew Martin, an extraordinarily intelligent mathematician with a very poor relationship with his wife and son.

R E V I E W

★★★★★

This book is quirky, tongue-in-cheek, deep, and entrancing. It’s an interesting blend of sci-fi and contemporary. It deals with aliens and strange powers, but reads like a contemporary and has many themes commonly found in contemporary novels.

I have to say while reading the first few chapters, I almost put this down and didn’t pick it back up again. Reading about an alien with no previous knowledge of humanity trying to live as a human, I could barely deal with the secondhand embarrassment. Just keep that in mind if you decide to read this (which you should). It only takes a few chapters and it gets there. I ended up using so many tabs, I had to restrain myself from marking every single page.

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The writing is beautiful and incorporates math concepts and imagery to connect and compare the alien race to humanity. Haig expertly transitions from more calculated, scientific language to a more poetic and “human” language as the story progresses and as our main character begins to understand humanity.

Towards the beginning, he listens to Holst’s The Planets (an album I was tickled to realize I owned) and his interaction with music and art are important turning points for his character.

“Listening to music, I realized, was simply the pleasure of counting without realizing you were counting. As the electrical impulses were transported from the neurons in my ear through my body, I felt–I don’t know–calm.”

One of the joys I experienced while reading was listening to the music our main character mentioned.

“There was a Talking Heads song called ‘This Must Be the Place,’ which I played over and over again, even though doing so made me feel melancholy and crave to hear her voice again, or to hear Gulliver’s footsteps on the stairs.”

In conclusion, read this book. It’s a story about love and loss, repairing relationships, and familial bonds. It will make you cry and laugh and think about stuff. If you’re just done with humanity and its bullshit, this book may or may not change your mind.