A Month of Favorites: 5 Faves by Theme

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2 – 5 Faves by a Theme {eg. Audiobooks, Fantasy, Science Fiction, Mysteries, Books with Surprise Twists, Surprise Endings, Non-Fiction, Books That Made You Cry, Laugh Out Loud, Cringe, Book Boyfriends That Stole Your Heart, Apocalypse, Dystopian, Best books with kick ass girls, favorite siblings, couples, friends, most hated and loved villains} – link-up hosted at Estella’s Revenge.

 

5 Fave Graphic novels/Comics:

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1.  Chroniques de Jérusalem is an excellent way to become better acquainted with the complexities of Israel through the eyes of Guy Delisle.  He and his family move to Jerusalem because his wife is working for Médecins sans Frontière (Doctors without Borders).  There he finds out things up close and personal in this true account. It’s frustrating, shocking, funny, and informative.  The schematic black and white artwork contains loads of detail and is more and more endearing as the story develops.  You can read it in English too. The title is called Chronicles of Jerusalem.

 

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2.  Storm is a comic which recounts her life and the beginning of her powers.  I enjoyed this one but I didn’t love it.  Storm is drawn as a twenty something when in fact through most of the book she’s about thirteen years old.  That was a bit strange.  Otherwise the artwork is well done with beautiful colours. I mostly picked it up because I wanted to see how Eric Jerome Dickey was going to handle writing a comic. Not too bad Dickey.

 

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3.  Saga is one of the most popular comics read this year.  This fantasy/science-fiction comic follows two soldiers from two different races and planets that fall in love and betray the expectations of their people by having a baby and trying to make a solid family.  Interesting commentary on society while dazzling the eyes with creative colourful beings and monsters from the two worlds.  Who won’t like Saga?  Those who prefer linear stories with normal looking people doing normal things and without too much sex. Personally I loved it!

 

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4.  Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth was picked up on a whim.  I had heard a few people mention it and decided to try it out.  I was surprised by Chris Ware’s ability to convey so much sensitivity through the artwork, the graphics, and the mise en page.  It’s an autobiography about an ordinary man who one day has the possibility of meeting his father who abandoned him so many years before.  Every centimetre of this graphic novel has been thought out methodically to convey the emotions and themes of the story.  This is a really worthwhile graphic novel to pick up, especially if you haven’t yet found the style of graphic novel that speaks to you.  The cover and book size are very original.  This one is definitely a keeper.

 

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5.  L’Arabe du Futur (The Arab of the Future) is an autobiographical graphic novel that follows the life of the author Riad Sattouf.  The reader follows Riad and his parents (Syrian father and French mother) as they move from living in Libya under Khadaffi’s rule to the countryside of Syria in Homs.  It’s edifying seeing what it was like to live in Libya and Syria from 1978-1984.  I read this one in French, however it is available in English.  Those who have read this one can’t wait for part 2.

 

5 Fave Non-fiction:

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1.  Buck is the memoir of MK Asante.  He writes his story with a lot of passion and lyricism.  It’s like reading music.  If you’re interested in reading how someone who was spiralling downward manages to take control of his life and discover art, music, and the desire to create you should check this one out.  I liked it and I’m not always a fan of reading memoirs.

 

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2.  Red Dust Road is Jackie Kay’s search for her biological parents (her father a Nigerian and her mother a Scottish woman from the Highlands).  It’s poignant, sensitive, and uncomfortable in places.  It’s beautifully written and we as readers are really along for the ride as she searches for her parents. This was my first full length novel by Jackie Kay.  I first learned about her from Claire over at Word by Word.  She spoke to me about Kay’s poetry.  If you don’t know Jackie Kay you should definitely check her out because she’s a wonderful writer of color from Scotland. I can’t wait to read Trumpet and Reality Reality.  You can read her poetry online free of charge.

 

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3.  The Hare with Amber Eyes wasn’t exactly what I thought it would be but it is an interesting story of an extremely wealth Jewish family’s journey through Europe, and their netsake collection from Japan.  This is a story full of plush architectural descriptions to the idiosyncrasies of Edmund De Waal’s family.  From Russia to France to Austria and the United Kingdom, this story will teach you many things.  If you’re a history and art lover and appreciate intricate storytelling about real people and historical happenings you’ll love this one.

 

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4.  In the shadow of the Banyan is the stunning fictionalised true story of Vaddey Ratner’s years in Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge. This story is so well written it really took me aback.  The emotion described in this book was phenomenal!  All told through the eyes of a child and it’s this aspect that makes the story so special.  It will shock you and break your heart but this book is definitely a must read for those that want to know more about this dark period of Cambodia.

 

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5.  March is the first volume of the life of Congressman John Lewis.  This comic details the budding years of the Civil Rights Movement. March could be used as a teaching tool and is an excellent tribute to a great African-American.  The artwork is well done and has a unique style of mise en page.  I can’t wait to read volume 2!

May-June 2014 Reviews of Graphic Novels

Reading graphic novels is such a pleasurable experience and can be an excellent way to convey simple to complex ideas.  Many avid readers have a tendency to ignore graphic novels for they are perceived as maybe too simple and not profound enough.  Reading them is surely very different from reading books, but it’s all a welcome challenge and can even pull readers out of deep reading slumps.

In May and June I read quite a bit but only 3 graphic novels.  The first on the list was Storm.  You guys must know who Storm is. She the black superhero featured in the Marvel comics’ Ex-Men.  With her white long tresses and blue IMG_0373eyes, we find out the life of Storm as a young twelve-year-old trying to survive with a group of young people stealing in the streets, somewhere on the plains of Africa.  They are being led by an adult master thief, Storm calls Teacher.  Storm is already aware of some of her powers but not all of her capacity.  She is learning slowly but surely about who she really is and what she is capable of.

The story was written by bestselling author Eric Jerome Dickey.  He’s an African-American author who is known for having written contemporary fiction novels with relationship themes containing African-American characters.  Some of his popular novels are Milk in My Coffee, Sister, Sister, Between Lovers, and the four-part Gideon series(detective series).  I felt that Dickey was an interesting choice to breathe some life into this neglected superhero.

The comic was beautifully published and the story was interesting, however some explanations aren’t fully clarified.  Nevertheless, the comic did its duty which was to help me escape and provide me with a light read.  The artwork is detailed and colourful, while the artistic depiction of Storm as a twelve-year-old left me perplexed.  She looked to be 20+ years old.  I don’t know why, but comics are usually drawn by men who enjoy all their women in comics depicted with overtly shaped bodily features (even if they are supposed to only be 12).  Even though, check it out.  Storm is such a wonderful character that deserves to have her own X-Men film. Hint! Hint! For anyone out there that could actually make that happen.  Please do.

My next adventure read had me travelling through space to a futuristic world in the popular growing comic Saga vol. 3.  Hesitant to jump on IMG_0282this bandwagon at the beginning of this year, I decided to give it a try.  The first volume introduces the reader to Marko and Alana. These 2 fantastic characters are described as the Romeo and Juliette of space.  Although I feel that analogy is a simple version of a well put together graphic novel that combines societal commentary, science-fiction, creative uncanny characters, and high quality artwork.

The story is being recounted by Hazel the daughter of Alana and Marko.  So, we know that in the end she will survive all the trials and tribulations of her parents, who are having a relationship that is forbidden and trying to escape from all the people who want them dead.  Alana is from the Continent and Marko is from the Crown.  In this real futuristic world they aren’t meant to be together.  Hazel is a product of their love (a miracle she’s survived) and they spend each volume trying to protect her and to give her a good life.  On their journey they encounter many strangely unique looking characters that give the story sentience.  Through each episode we get closer to understanding the worlds of Marko and Alana and why their people are warring and have been for aeons.  We root for them to finally find peace and happiness in this tragically war ridden world.  Their adventures are what keeps the reader wanting more.

Volume three opened up so many new angles to the story that when it was over I would have liked volume 4 to already be by my side ready to devour.  The artwork is done by Fiona  Staples and the story is written by Brian K. Vaughan – the Dynamic Duo if you will!  Definitely a series to pick up if you’re not squeamish about sex in comics and stories that take place in far off futuristic worlds.

The last but absolutely not the least of the graphic novels/comics I read in May and June 2014, was Chroniques de Jérusalem (Chronicles of Jerusalem in English) by Guy Delisle.  This is a non-fiction graphic novel about Delisle’s stay in Jerusalem with his wife and children.  While his Médecins Sans Frontières= Doctors IMG_0156without Borders wife performs her medical duties in Gaza and other citiess in Israel, Delisle discovers the complexities and idiosyncrasies of this vibrant, in constant movement country Israel.  Delisle tries to record events and places through travel and meeting people, but soon realises that things are never as simple as they should be.  He conveys to the reader the good, the bad and the ugly of Israel and he does it with a certain sense of humour that keeps the reader wanting more.  I could have read this graphic novel in one day but it was so interesting and informative that I found myself reading slower to savour the moment.  I visited Israel for about a week 16 years ago and there were stories that brought back memories for me. I also learned a lot about the culture that I didn’t know and hadn’t heard of before.

Delisle’s black and white simple style of drawing puts the accent on what he’s trying to say, but is pleasing to the eye.  His artwork isn’t dark and gloomy like a lot of black and white comics.  He’s managed to capture the essentials of the story harmoniously in 333 pages.  This is a must read for everyone, especially those that don’t know much about the Middle East conflict.  Check out this five-star winner of the best graphic novel in the Angloulême, France competition in 2012.

So what about you? Are you lovers of graphic novels, comics, or manga? Let’s chat below on why you are or aren’t.  I definitely prefer graphic novels to comics, but hate manga. Shhh! Don’t let my daughters hear me saying that.

Aya de Yopougon

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3392178 I happened upon these graphic novels while waiting in line to pay for my daughter’s books for school. I was enticed by the big orange band stretched across this big, beautiful graphic novel advertising the movie release.  Yes the movie release was apparently the 17th of July and it slipped right passed me. I don’t remember hearing one word about it nor did I see that it was playing in my local movie theatre, which is notorious for sometimes not showing movies that are being shown everywhere else.  The artwork and a story of a young woman from the Ivory Coast seemed to be the perfect end to6545260

my summer reading.  I read my big orange book in a couple of hours and then went to my local comic shop to procure the rest.  It was there that I realized I was in possession of books 1 and 2 that had been combined in the movie version.  I quickly purchased book 3 and now can’t wait to get my hands on books 4, 5, and 6.

Aya is of course the main character and the story centers around her neighbourhood in Yopougon and around her family and friends.  I’m reading it in French and love the way it’s written.  There are all the expressions and customs wrapped up in these stories.  The main themes in these books are family and community, advancement of women in African society, and infidelity and dishonesty.  The stories are touching, funny, and a real critic of African society.  I can smell the spices and feel the warmth of Africa in theses books.  At times I can’t help laughing out loud or shaking my head at what characters say.  Another interesting aspect of these graphic novels are the last few pages.  There are recipes and little tidbits about African culture, along with a mini glossary of some of the African expressions and words used in the story.

Aya is intelligent and helpful to her friends and family, especially when they are in trouble.  As readers we hope that something good will happen to Aya, but by the end of book 3 I’m no longer sure.  I hope I’m wrong about that.  So I returned on Saturday to get books 4, 5, and 6 and unfortunately I had to order them. Ahhhh!  The suspense continues…..Lucky for me I won’t have to wait too long.  I should be able to have them on Thursday.  If you’re looking for a graphic novel that isn’t about superheroes or typical comics, you should give Aya de Yopougon a try.  It’s sure to suck you in.  So what’s the name of the last graphic novel you’ve read?  Why do you like or dislike reading graphic novels?

Marguerite Abouet was born in Abidjan, Ivory Coast in 1971.  She is a writer and is best known for her  graphic novel series Aya de Yopougon or Aya of Yop City.  At 12 years old Abouet and her younger brother moved to Paris with their great-uncle.  There she furthered her studies and eventually became a legal assistant.  Aya is her first successful graphic novel in collaboration with her husband Clément Oubrerie who illustrated it.  This was his first illustrative job in graphic novels.  Abouet and Oubrerie won the Angoulême International Comics Festival prize for First Comic Book in 2006.  Abouet was inspired to write Aya after reading Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi.  She wanted to depict Africa in all of its realism, not just in the common themes of poverty and starvation.  Abouet has published another series called Akissi for younger children.  Akissi is based on Marguerite Abouet’s childhood memories living in Abidjan.  There are four books in the series.  It was apparently translated into British English with  Flying Eye Books publishing company.  The first book of the series is called Feline Invasion or Attaque de Chats in French. The link below shows a clip of the animated film in French of Aya.  Sorry that I couldn’t find it in English, but I’m sure you’ll enjoy seeing what it’s like all the same.

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Graphic Novels #1

138398138396You’re probably wondering what drove me to pick up these two since they don’t really correspond to what I typically read.  I guess it was good old-fashioned curiosity.  I’ve heard so many things about Walking Dead that I had to give it a try.  It’s one of the hot American tv series at the moment and I tried that out too.  I only watched the first four episodes of season one to get an idea.  I left off where the guys saws his hand off to get out of some handcuffs.  I’m good.

Now I have to say I’m no zombie expert or anything but I found the graphic novels not so bad.  The story begins with the main protagonist Rick waking up in a hospital bed to find no living beings left there except some zombies in an enclosed operating room.  He then ventures out of the hospital searching for his wife and son. He grabs a bike and rides to his home which he finds abandoned.  As he leaves and is searching for anyone who can explain what’s going on he’s hit on the back of the head with a shovel and the post apocalyptic adventure begins.

I read these stories in French because I was enticed into buying them while in the manga section looking for a birthday present for one of my daughters.  I could read more of these but I’d really have to be in the mood, not to mention there are about 16 volumes in this series for the moment.  I’ll be hitting up my local library for the others at some point.  Reading Walking Dead in French didn’t change much to the story.  It read very much like a film.  However, they were extremely different from the television series.  In my opinion the graphic novels had a better story line, while the television series is more sensationalist and the characters are pretty despicable.  There is more emphasis placed on blood, guts, and shock value.  The graphic novels seem to study the aspect of survival and how people behave in these extreme situations.  Fidelity, love, family, and killing are other recurring themes.

The artwork in book one Passé Décomposé, which is called Days Gone By in English was beautifully executed.  The detail in the faces and shading in the scenery was fantastic.  It was a joy to look at.  As for the second book Cette Vie Derrière Nous, which is called Miles Behind Us, I had a lot of difficulty adjusting to the artwork.  All the characters from the first book looked different in the second one and some even looked older than what they were in the first one. The utilisation of black ink sort of made everybody look a little crazy in book two.  Walking Dead is written by Robert Kirkman who started in comics in the United States around 2000.  The artists for book one are Charlie Adlard, who is a British comic book artist and debuted his career in the 1990s and Tony Moore another American comic book artist who worked with Robert Kirkman on another project called Battle Pope.  The artistic combination was a success but in book two the artwork isn’t as personal and detailed as in book one, which is done solely by Adlard.

417d+cvNYUL._SL500_This next graphic novel was a real surprise.  I must admit that what attracted me to it was the beautiful cover and its title.  How could I pass on a story about Cairo, the place where I lived for three and a half years.  This is an adventure involving an Egyptian journalist, an American girl, an American/Lebanese boy, a hashish smuggler, a woman Israeli soldier, and a jinn.  There’s magic, humour, fantasy, adventure, and a bit of religion. The hunt for a magical hookah which can lead to immense power.  Cairo was cited as one of the Best Graphic Novels for High School Students in 2008, one of 2009’s Top Ten Graphic Novels for Teens by American Library Association and named one of the best graphic novels of 2007 by Publishers Weekly.

I found this story interesting and an extremely quick read.  I almost wished the story would have been a bit more complex and lasted a bit longer, maybe a part two.  I enjoyed the snarky personalities of Ashraf, the drug smuggler and Tova, the Israeli soldier.  The ambiance of the story was complete with references to Arabic literature and enough Arabic words to make you feel Egypt.  The artwork was beautifully detailed and loved the way the mis en page was done.  I liked the way there were some squares that were upside down.  That really added to the story.  M.K. Perker was the artist of Cairo.  He is Turkish and started comic book drawing at 16 years old.  He really does have a perfected technique that showed throughout the story.

G. Willow Wilson has written other graphic novels such as Air a four-volume graphic novel, Mystic: The Tenth wilson_1Apprentice, Vixen: Return of the Lion, Alif the Unseen, and The Butterfly Mosque: A Young American Woman’s Journey to Love and  Islam.  Wilson was born and raised in New Jersey.  She was studying Arabic and history at Boston University where she eventually converted to Islam.  She then moved to Cairo where she taught English and furthered her writing career.  At 21 years old, she was the first Western writer to interview the current Egyptian Mufti.  She was also longlisted for the Women’s Prize for fiction 2013 for her first novel Alif the Unseen.  It’s a story about a young Arab-Indian hacker who protects his dishonest clients. I suggest you check out something by G. Willow Wilson because I’m sure we’ll be hearing a lot more about her.

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24. Embroideries

I  couldn’t wait to get my hands on another Marjane Satrapi graphic novel.  So while browsing Amazon.fr looking for EFL books for a class I ran across Embroideries.  I pressed add and in my basket it went.  When I received the book, the quote on the back cover that struck me was “By turns bawdy and heartbreaking…Of all Satrapi’s books, Embroideries most effectively tears down the divide between Iranian and American culture, showing how women everywhere are similar.”  –  The Capital Times (Madison)  I had the same feeling while reading Persepolis.

Initially on the book’s arrival I was disappointed to see how short it was.  I remembered how much I had enjoyed Persepolis and how I didn’t want it to end.  Well, Embroideries is so short that I read it in less than an hour and I was trying to make it last.  I read it the same day it arrived in the mail.  After dinner, I got comfy in my armchair in the living room near the window and read it in 45 minutes.  How did I find it?  The graphic style is the same as Persepolis and the ambiance of the storytelling too.  Marjane Satrapi’s recalcitrant, comical, sarky, tell-it-like-it-is grandmother makes a reappearance.  It definitely wouldn’t be as humorous without her.  Embroideries, is essentially a short story about ladies getting together for afternoon tea to engage in discussion, which leads them to talk about the sexual habits of Iranian women.  “The tea that we prepared at these times had a completely different function.  Everyone gathered around the drink in order to devote themselves to their favorite activity : DISCUSSION.  This discussion had its own purpose:  To speak behind others’ backs is the ventilator of the heart…” (Embroideries)  The samovar or tea is just the opportunity for these women to get together.  This is not any different from any other part of the world.  Women getting together can lead to all kinds of different discussions, including sex, contrary to popular belief.  Each woman tells an awkward tale involving a relationship with a man, about sex, or both.  Some of the stories are really quite funny.  Through these accounts you understand better about the way the women feel about sex, men, and marriage and also how the men don’t seem to be controlling as much as think they are.

I’m giving Embroideries three and a half stars.  I can’t give it more because it seems to have opened Pandora’s box but doesn’t go deep enough.   Although, I’m not disappointed I read it I was hoping for so much more.  In spite of everything, Marjane Satrapi is a brilliant graphic artist and has introduced the culture of Iran and Iranian people’s everyday lives through her works to her readers.  Most importantly, she succeeds at doing this with a universal approach.

22. Persepolis

A while back I watched a snippet of Persepolis with my family.  I immediately stopped when I realized it was written originally as a graphic novel.  I always prefer reading the book before seeing the movie.  This is a first for me reading a graphic novel and I got lucky and picked it up at WH Smith’s in Paris for only 9€.  I don’t usually read manga or comics but I found Persepolis a real pleasure.  So glad I read it!  So much so, I began reading at a slower pace to savor it longer.

This version is the complete version and has two books – The Story of a Childhood and The Story of a Return.  In essence Persepolis is the story of the Islamic revolution in Iran told by a precocious and free-speaking little Iranian girl.  It’s touching, shocking, humorous, surprising, and melancholy.  This amazing story shows that among all the extraordinary changes that happened during the revolution the Iranians were trying and fighting to live their lives as normally as possible, in spite of all the new laws and oppression.  People were falling in love, trying to study, getting married, working, surviving…….

Satrapi has written what she calls a fictionalized memoir.  She details the difficulties of life under the regime and life as a young Iranian living in Europe and being misunderstood, insulted, and mostly alone.  I think most people have their opinions about Iran but they would need to read this book to comprehend how these changes altered Iranians everyday lives forever; not to mention how their past culture has been thrown away and replaced by repression and fear.  What I took away from this book is, everybody wants to be happy and live life freely.   I give Persepolis 5 golden stars and strongly urge you all to read it.  You just might learn something.

Marjane Satrapi is an Iranian born French national.  She is a graphic novelist, illustrator, and animated film director.  She is multilingual and although her maternal language is Persian she additionally speaks German, Spanish, Swedish, French, and Italian.  She won the Jury Prize for Persepolis at the Cannes Film Festival in 2007.  Unfortunately, Persepolis was not in contention for the Oscar of Best Foreign film which frankly was an injustice.  It remained in the running for the Best Animated Feature Film at the Oscars where it lost to Ratatouille.  She has written other novels such as Chicken with Plums (film released in October 2011) and Embroideries.

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