Commute by Erin Williams – Graphic Novel Review

☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

This memoir of ‘female shame’ really tore in to my heart with its intimate authenticity. Erin Williams’ story does not bow down to normal conventions of removing banality and hiding the grittier aspects of life. This story is raw with honesty and flays your heart open like a fresh wound ready to take a repeated pounding. Maybe it was just me. Maybe it was the simplistic artistic style that did not aspire to perfection but rather existed as a visual representation of Williams’ message of shining a light on all of the things we try to hide. This story is not an easy read but that makes it all the more worthy of your time.

Blurb:

In Commute, we follow author and illustrator Erin Williams on her daily commute to and from work, punctuated by recollections of sexual encounters as well as memories of her battle with alcoholism, addiction, and recovery.

As she moves through the world navigating banal, familiar, and sometimes uncomfortable interactions with the familiar-faced strangers she sees daily, Williams weaves together a riveting collection of flashbacks. Her recollections highlight the indefinable moments when lines are crossed and a woman must ask herself if the only way to avoid being objectified is to simply cease to draw any attention to her physical being.

She delves into the gray space that lives between consent and assault and tenderly explores the complexity of the shame, guilt, vulnerability, and responsibility attached to both.

Pros:

  • Commute was an incredibly authentic story that lent weight and respect to the gritty and honest themes that were present (and darker in nature than I had anticipated). The impact of sexual abuse, addiction and the constant fight for recovery was evident throughout this book. It was real, scathingly honest and painted a picture that was hard to look away from.
  • I loved the banal elements in this book. At first I thought they were making an irreverent commentary on the unimportance of everything else in her life. Rather, the story highlighted the small, inconsequential events that we take for granted everyday. It lent a positive light on to the small victories that we almost forget about winning.
  • The message of being a sexual object or being invisible was one I hadn’t considered before but started to notice everywhere once I knew what to look for. It’s mind bogglingly simple as an idea and yet so complex and intricate in real life.

Cons:

  • I mean this with all due respect considering the content matter of this book, but it seemed to lacked a consideration for the similar circumstances many men face in their lifetime. They are not exempt from painful experiences of sexual abuse, addiction and recovery. I can see why they would have been painted as the ‘bad guys’ in this novel. I even agree with majority of the stereotypes placed on them as a whole. What I would have liked to have seen however, was some indication of the fact that women are not the only ones who struggle with these issues.
  • The onus of blame in regards to addiction was a tough one to swallow in this story. There never seems to be a ‘right answer’ or one direct person to blame. You can’t even blame the addict. I loved and yet disliked that this story did not have a clear or simple ending.

//have you read this book? what were your thoughts on it? //

Jen

Mini Review Monday – Graphic Novel eARCs

Hi all!

As we tend to read quite a few graphic novels but don’t want to do a full post for each one of them we decided to do weekly mini reviews to sum up the ones we’ve read recently and hopefully get more people interested in this fascinating genre. We’ve noticed that graphic novels go quite unnoticed in the book blogging community but some of them are phenomenal and deserve to be shared. Just as audio books can be an acquired reading format, so too are graphic novels.

We hope to share some of our thoughts and favourite reads with you in the hopes that it inspires more people to try this genre!

Pre-Order Princess de Cleves here and Tamba Child Soldier here.

La Princesse de Cleves – Written in 1678 by Madame de Lafayette, ‘The Princess of Cleves’ is a founding novel. The young Miss de La Marche took her first steps in the court of the King of France, Henry II. Between cabals, gossip and gallantry, she meets love in a world full of conventions. By returning to her advantage the stereotyped feminine ideals of the time (solitude, silence, secrecy, restraint, decency and discretion), the princess exhibits a new form of feminism, based on self-esteem where reason triumphs over passion.

☆ ☆ ☆

As someone unfamiliar with the original Princess of Cleves written by Madame de Lafayette, the introduction to this graphic novel was intense. There was a lot of information provided that was essential in understanding complex dynamics between characters. Luckily, a family tree is provided. Unluckily, I received an eARC (which I usually don’t mind) but it made going back and forth to the family tree quite cumbersome. If you’re familiar with the story however, it may not be an issue for you. Nevertheless, once I was able to get my head around all of the socialites and their family trees, the story was quite interesting!

I found myself becoming invested in the uncertain future of La Princesse de Cleves. The premise perfectly outlines the unusual feminist stance taken in this story. I can’t quite say I was in approval of it but I’m not living during the time period. In terms of meeting historical romantic conventions of the time, this story definitely achieved that. I was so intrigued by the Princess of Cleve’s choices. Her refusal to be with the man she loved, and whom loved her back, was definitely not what I had been expecting! I’m a HEA kind gal.

The side characters were also quite enjoyable and the graphics themselves were delectably embellished with small details that perfectly set the scene in the time period. If you’re a fan of historical fiction, literature or are just keen to try something new then I’d recommend you try this!

ARC provided by Darguard via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Tamba Child Soldier – “My name is Tamba Cisso. When I was eight years old, I lived in the village with my father, my mother and my sister. I went to school and had learned to read. I knew there was war in my country, but I didn’t know that children could wage it.” Providing a testimonial to one of the most heart-wrenching and chilling developments in modern warfare, this graphic novel chronicles the realities of hundreds of thousands across the world, kidnapped and forced to commit atrocities.

☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

Wow. This book was hauntingly honest and completely stole my breath. The horrors that happen for the sake of greed, power and money are unimaginable. Except, this novel attempts to shed light on the deplorable acts children are forced to commit daily around the world. This novel forced me to imagine what that living hell would be like. I was utterly heart-broken and yet in awe. The graphics in this novel were some of the best I’d seen. The vivid colours and striking scenes almost pulled me out of the story they were so good!

What really made this book stand out from the crowd was the emphasis it placed on the rehabilitation and healing process of the people when the war ended. While kidnapping and forcing children to fight a war they don’t understand is unimaginably harsh, the after-effects of the war were arguably as bad. You’d expect freedom and peace with the cessation of fire. Instead, a land was left torn from the destruction its own people had caused. Children were murderers and seen as the perpetrators of extensive human rights violations. How does a country come back from that? How is peace attained? And who is ultimately responsible for the horrors committed?

This depiction of an attempt to create peace after shockingly vile and destructive events was poignantly written and tore apart my heart. It was so authentic and achingly real. I loved the inclusion of the author’s own history that had inspired this novel. This is one I would recommend everyone (who is aware of the triggers) to read!

ARC provided by NBM Publishing via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Jen

Bury the Lede by Gaby Dunn & Claire Rose – Graphic Novel eARC

Buy it on AMAZON

☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

Bury the Lede was one of my most anticipated graphic novels of fall. The cover’s bold colour, intriguing title and my recent addiction to getting my daily fill of pretty graphics meant this one was a shoe-in for me to read. Technically, I was only supposed to start reading this on Monday. I’m so so glad that I caved.

The story was as intensely gripping, mysterious and as gorgeously visual as I had hoped it would be. Bury the Lede had great rep for POC and LGBTQ+ characters and the inclusion of political machinations made this feel authentic and steeped in reality. While this story was quite a lot darker and deeper than I had anticipated, for the most part this was an interesting and unusual read.

This ARC was provided by BOOM! Studios via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Blurb:

Reporter for the Boston Lede, Madison Jackson is young, scrappy, and hungry to prove that she deserves her coveted college internship. When her police scanner mentions a brutal murder tied to the prominent Boston Kennedys, Madison races to the crime scene. What she finds will change her life forever: Dahlia Kennedy, celebrity socialite, now widow, covered in gore and the prime suspect in the murder of her husband and child. When Dahlia refuses to talk to anyone but Madison, they begin a dangerous game of cat and mouse that leads the young journalist down a twisted path.

First off, the graphics in this book were so well done. The colours were vivid and really eye-catching. Hats off to Miquel Muerto the colourist! Besides for beautiful contrast and bold tones, the illustration boasted characters that truly were their appearance. The little details included for each person contributed to the story in a manner that isn’t always achieved in graphic novels. Their posture, accessories, head angles and facial expressions sometimes spoke more than the words and that’s exactly what I’m eager to experience more of in this genre.

The main character Maddison was a (mostly) likeable. She had grit, determination and a commitment to proving her worth that’s reminiscent of a self-confidence I can only hope for. Maddy did however, display some less enviable traits. Disloyalty, selfishness and a slight ego. But really, she’s a reporter. To some extent, getting a front-page worthy story seemed to require these traits. At least, Maddison thought so.

The murder investigation seemed to almost take a back seat at times in this story and that wasn’t what I had been expecting. The story still kept my interest though and the pages flew by! There were times when I got a little confused with the events. It took me a while to adjust to her investigation of an alternate news-worthy story. It all seemed to relate to the original murder though, so that was a nice tie-in. However, I do think this could have been explored and explained a bit more toward the end. The last few pages felt quite rushed and not as fleshed out as they could have been.

Overall, this was an interesting read and introduced me to the beautiful work of Gaby Dunn, Claire Roe and Miquel Muerto. I’m looking forward to more of their work in the future!

Jen

Mini Review Monday – Graphic Novel eARCs

Hi all!

As we tend to read quite a few graphic novels but don’t want to do a full post for each one of them we decided to do weekly mini reviews to sum up the ones we’ve read recently and hopefully get more people interested in this fascinating genre. We’ve noticed that graphic novels go quite unnoticed in the book blogging community but some of them are phenomenal and deserve to be shared. Just as audio books can be an acquired reading format, so too are graphic novels.

We hope to share some of our thoughts and favourite reads with you in the hopes that it inspires more people to try this genre!

IN A WORLD OF BLUE

Skyward – One day, gravity on Earth suddenly became a fraction of what it is now. Twenty years later, humanity has adapted to its new low-gravity reality. And to Willa Fowler, a woman born just after G-day, it’s…well, it’s pretty awesome, actually. You can fly through the air! I mean, sure, you can also die if you jump too high. So you just don’t jump too high. And maybe don’t get mixed up in your Dad’s secret plan to bring gravity back that could get you killed…

My review –

☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ /5 STARS

This story had such a simple premise of ‘Low G’ but it created a completely new world. One in which the fear of drifting away was inherently real and a daily fear. The dangerous nature of the world without gravity resulted in a society split apart in to the reckless fliers, agoraphobic safety-conscious folk and the rich ground walkers (capable of affording magnetic boots). It was very easy to get immersed in this new world and the GN was packed-full of action to keep me interested.

What let this GN down in my opinion was the inclusion of a trope of the duplicitous bad-guy being an old family friend who was a scientific researcher with Willa’s father. Their prediction that the earth would suffer Low G was laughed at but the subsequent occurrence Low G life on Earth solidified their scientific work as a legitimate theory. With Skyward’s perfect simplicity of a premise, I was expecting something a bit more unique for the ‘dangerous’ aspect of the story and this felt a bit overdone. However, it didn’t hamper the story completely. The plot line for this was developed well and still kept me interested through to the end.

While the main character Willa was such a capable young woman and deserved my full appreciation, the disability rep in Skyward completely captured my attention. My favourite character was Edison, a quadriplegic young man who had embraced the freedom offered by a Low G lifestyle. His witty humour and innate kindness completely stole my heart and had me excited to read the next volume in this series!

Worlds Unseen – 1906. William is ten years old when his family leaves London for Barellito, a small Italian fishing village. The quiet of the village will not last long, however, thanks to the ripples created by the arrival of William and his family. His own life, too, is about to be upturned, in this remarkable and wondrous new land where he will find new southern landscapes, a new kind of liberty, and above all new friends: Paolo, Nino, and the charming Lisa, united forever by an extraordinary event and a strange object

My Review –

First page showcasing vivid colours and well-placed panels.

☆ / 5 STARS

The cover of this GN looks so cute. I was imagining that it would be an exciting adventure of childhood experiences and whimsy set apart by deeper themes of technology’s impact on the fishing trade and cultural assimilation. What I got wasn’t nearly as good as that sounds.

The story itself was pieced together in an almost incoherent manner that left the main character arc quite confusing to follow. The setting and culture were described quite well and were easy to imagine however, throughout the story there were so many elements that left me completely clueless that it took away my ability to understand the deeper messages in the text. Worlds Unseen spoke of technology’s impact on fishing as well as a small town that refused to accept outsiders however, I couldn’t tell which way the story lent in terms of approval for these factors.

There were instances in which absolutely random events happened in the midst of the story, as if to create a side-story of which we were not told the characters, events or time period. There was absolutely no connection or relevance to the main story line, that I could gather, and so this completely confused me.

The artistic aspect was the best part of my reading experience. The colours were vivid, the lines strong and the speech was well balanced on the page as a ratio to graphics. The panels were well placed and easy to follow.

ARC provided by Europe Comics via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

// have you read any of these GNs? what were your thoughts on them? //

Jen

Recent ARC Approvals – My Excitement!

If you lived next door to me this morning… you’d have heard my squeals and probably assumed I’d burnt something in the kitchen again (my neighbours are quite used to the frequent sound of my fire alarm from my disastrous attempts to make toast) but alas it was GOOD NEWS this time!

I just got approved for two graphic novel ARCs that I’ve been HIGHLY ANTICIPATING. My Top TenTuesday last week outlined some of the GNs I’m super excited to try this year! My happiness can only be summed up by the gif above. Add in the sound of squeals and it’s practically me… except twenty years younger haha.

Here they are:

BURY THE LEDE

Reporter for the Boston Lede, Madison Jackson is young, scrappy, and hungry to prove that she deserves her coveted college internship. When her police scanner mentions a brutal murder tied to the prominent Boston Kennedys, Madison races to the crime scene. What she finds will change her life forever: Dahlia Kennedy, celebrity socialite, now widow, covered in gore and the prime suspect in the murder of her husband and child. When Dahlia refuses to talk to anyone but Madison, they begin a dangerous game of cat and mouse that leads the young journalist down a twisted path. I’ve been thinking of branching out in to crime fiction lately but thought graphic might be the better way to start. I’m excited to see where this mysterious story leads!

Pre-Order it on AMAZON

Named One of the 41 Best LGBTQ Book That’ll Change the Literary Landscape in 2019 by O: The Oprah Magazine.

COMMUTE: AN ILLUSTRATED MEMOIR OF FEMALE SHAME

An intimate, clever, and ultimately gut-wrenching graphic memoir about the daily decision women must make between being sexualized or being invisible

In Commute, we follow author and illustrator Erin Williams on her daily commute to and from work, punctuated by recollections of sexual encounters as well as memories of her battle with alcoholism, addiction, and recovery. As she moves through the world navigating banal, familiar, and sometimes uncomfortable interactions with the familiar-faced strangers she sees daily, Williams weaves together a riveting collection of flashbacks. Her recollections highlight the indefinable moments when lines are crossed and a woman must ask herself if the only way to avoid being objectified is to simply cease to draw any attention to her physical being. She delves into the gray space that lives between consent and assault and tenderly explores the complexity of the shame, guilt, vulnerability, and responsibility attached to both.

Pre-Order it on AMAZON

The premise of this story is so relatable and heart-wrenchingly authentic. I’m eager to give this a try!

// are you excited to try any of these graphic novels or any others being released this year? //

Jen

Nimona by Noelle Stevenson – Graphic Novel Review

Buy it on: AMAZON
☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ FIVE STARS

Can you just see from the novel’s cover that this was SUCH A FUN RIDE?? It was charming, hilarious and packed-full of emotions in such a surprisingly long graphic novel. I was enchanted from the very first page by Nimona’s spunky, fierce and villainous attitude. When you add in gorgeous graphics, morally conflicted characters and a host of evil ‘good guys’… this story was just the break I needed from the YA I’ve been currently reading.

My favourite part of Nimona was the side characters, as even thought I LOVED NIMONA what really caught my attention was the hint of more between archenemies Sir Goldenloin and Lord Ballister… they were just SO FREAKING ADORABLE with their misguided hatred for one another that really stemmed from deeper, less dark emotions. The hint of their friendship (or MORE, PLEASE BE MORE) was enough to seal the deal. This is a novel I’ll be re-reading again and again.

Characters:

NIMONA – Was such a spunky, fierce and hilarious gal. I loved her rebellious nature and the fact that she came across as a teenager – albeit an EVIL teenager. It felt like Blackheart was her adopted father in some way and this lent the story some softer undertones to contend with its darker elements. At heart and despite her nature, Nimona was a loyal soul and this really gained my approval as a reader. I don’t enjoy reading about evil characters with no substance whatsoever. Some internal conflict and personal standards is more realistic and makes for a better read, in my opinion.

LORD BALLISTER BLACKHEART – Was my ABSOLUTE FAVOURITE character out of the bunch. His paternal instincts toward Nimona, loyalty to his old friend and moral standards made him hard not to love. He was the perfect anti-hero and an absolute sweetheart underneath all of his vendetta-driven quasi-evil core.

SIR AMBROSIUS GOLDENLOIN – Was your classic hero. I didn’t mind him really but he didn’t have much of a character, or at least traits that caught my attention. I preferred Lord Blackheart and Nimona. What I really adored about him though was his relationship with Blackheart. I loved how their relationship wasn’t the focal point of the story but continued quietly in the background. It was so adorably heart-warming and wrenching at the same time.

This was my favourite (spoiler-free) page in the novel.

This graphic novel really packed a punch from the very first page. The art was colourful and yet beautifully simplistic. There weren’t too many distractions and it was very easy to follow. The dialogue was witty and very easy to read. I kept wanting to follow it and had to remind myself to pause quite often to appreciate the glorious artwork illustrating the story. The subversive nature of this story really played on well-established tropes as well as my predictions of them, which made some of its events quite unexpected.

This story took a darker turn in the end than I was expecting but it felt justified. A HEA would have required the ending to be rushed, and considering the deeper tones in this novel it wouldn’t have seemed believable.

// have you read Nimona? what were your thoughts on it? //

Jen

WWW Wednesday #4

Hello lovelies!

It’s time for WWW Wednesday! This meme was originally hosted by A Daily Rhythm but was revived by Sam from Taking on a World of WordsIt’s a place to talk about the books you’ve been reading, plan to read and have read. I don’t usually keep track of my reading, except for my Goodreads Challenge, but I’ve found this meme to be really helpful with keeping me on track.

To take part all you have to do is answer the following questions:

What are you currently reading?

What have you recently finished reading?

What are you going to read next?

Currently Reading

I’m absolutely ADORING graphic novels right now… they’re so fun and easy to read while still packing the same punch. It’s a wonder I didn’t get in to reading them sooner! Heartstopper is adorably sweet so far and I CANNOT WAIT for the ending. I’ve already requested Volume 2 at my library as I want to soak up as much of Nick and Charlie’s cute romance as I can…

I’m really enjoying Infamous and Nimona as well. I’ve been obsessed with the Chronicles of Nick lately and Infamous is the best one yet. While the previous ones have had a few issues here and there… this one hasn’t. The characters are so well developed and the pace is INTENSE. I’m lovin’ it!

Recently Finished

This was a VERY SLOW reading week for me. I’ve had a few things on and books sadly went to the way side. I really enjoyed these three though! The Poet X was captivating and heart-breaking. It’s unflinching honesty really caught my attention!

Talon and Invincible were really good reads, too. I had a few issues with them, which I’ll explain more in their reviews. Despite the issues, most of them were minor and I’m keen to see where their stories lead from here!

Reading Next

In light of this past week’s reading slump, I’m only selecting three book for this following week. My ARC of the week is A Lie for a Lie which I’m keen to try as Helena Hunting is an awesome author! I’ve heard so much about Everything, Everything and have been excited to try this book for a long time. Plus, the cover is GORGEOUS!

I picked up A Curse so Dark and Lonely a week or two ago but got quite bored and ended up putting it down. I think I’m in a better space to give it another try this week though, so hopefully my interest in it improves!

// have you read any of these books? what did you think of them? //

Jen