5 More Graphic Novels

Back in December, I wrote about some graphic novels I’d recently read. I wanted to update that list with a few more, as I really enjoy reading the occasional comic book or graphic novel. To me, they help break things up and shake up my normal reading routine. Here are 5 more graphic novels that I’ve read in the last few months!

NewsPrints by Ru Xu

I really enjoyed this story! I came across it in our school’s library and was instantly drawn in. The artwork and the color palette is really special and I found the storyline to be very unique. We find ourselves in a different kind of world, with different countries and a new war we’ve never experienced. We meet a young orphan girl who pretends to be a newsboy, a master inventor with a secret, and a mysterious boy that we aren’t sure what to believe about. I found this story to be surprisingly moving and more powerful than I expected going into it.

Saga, Volume 7 by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples

I love this series a lot. It’s so very different from any other comic series that I’ve read before and since it’s a new set of worlds, there’s always something different and unexpected going on. This is definitely a more mature series, so be aware of that. The artwork and story situations are for a more advanced reader. I’ve gotten to a point where I preorder new volumes in this series, I enjoy it so much. In this latest addition, we see a very different tone from the ones before. It’s much more serious and intense, kind of a nice change up.

Redwall by Brian Jacques

This is a story that I’ve never read before. True story. I’ve heard about it, but haven’t ever picked it up. I enjoyed this first graphic novel adaptation, but I felt like maybe reading the full book would help me to understand exactly what was going on. There were some quick transitions where I felt like I’d missed something and new characters showed up left and right. If you’re already a fan of the series, this could be a great book to read. You can dive back into a story you love and see it in a different way.

March, Book 2 by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, Nate Powell

I read the first book in this series back and January and found it to be enlightening. These books are mostly black and white with simple artwork. To me, it’s simple as in it’s really realistic with sketch style lines. I really love seeing history through this medium. It’s sharp and factual, while still crafting a story that makes you want to keep reading, even if you know how it all turns out. I learned so much more from this second book than I did the first. I kept writing quotes down and listing out new information.

X-Men, Volume 1: Primer by Brian Wood, Oliver Coipel, David Lopez

This comic book was on sale on the website Comixology.com, so I decided to give it a try. I’ve read some comic books about super heroes, but none about the X-Men. I love the X-Men movies, so I was interested to see these (and new) characters in a different way. This first volume was pretty good. New and old characters, cool artwork, and a storyline that sets up future volumes.

Have you read any graphic novels that you could recommend? Let me know in the comments below!

Happy reading! – Caitlyn

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5 Graphic Novels I’ve Read Lately

For me, graphic novels are palette cleansers. When I’m not ready to dive into a new novel, but I still want some storytelling…I reach for a graphic novel. The best ones have compelling storylines that thrill me as much as a full length novel does, but they read so much faster. And they have pictures.

This month, I was introduced to ComiXology, a partner of Amazon.com, which allows readers to borrow comic books and graphic novels! I was so excited to try it out (especially since the first 30 days are free) and quickly asked around for recommendations. I really like how it lets you read panelled stories, one frame at a time. It zooms in for you and makes it incredibly user friendly. Let me know if you’re familiar with this site and have some recs!

Graphic novels are great, but for me…they’re harder to write reviews on. So instead, I’ve compiled a list so I can still get the word out! These are 5 that I’ve read lately.

cat-burglar-black

Cat Burglar Black by Richard Sala

This is the story of K, who at the beginning of the story arrives at Bellsong Academy, a school hidden away in the woods. It turns out that this is a school for cat burglars. They train together and have a mission to reunite 3 paintings in the hopes of great fortune. There was a lot that could have happened with this story…a lot MORE. It had potential, but the ending was really underwhelming. (My rating = 2 stars)

boxers

Boxers by Gene Luen Yang

This is the story of Bao and a group of ordinary peasants who learn kung fu and rise up against their foreign oppressors. “Foreign devils” have arrived, bringing their religion and their railways, affecting the Chinese culture and way of life. This was a side of history that was eye-opening. The graphics were at some points…well…graphic, but it is war time, after all. There was also mention of how the foreigners got their power, which was also…shocking. Ha! But in the end, I actually really liked this story. I’ve been on a kick lately about reading stories that act as a window into another culture or way of life. This definitely fit that bill. (My rating = 4 stars)

saints

Saints by Gene Luen Yang

When I went to the library and asked for graphic novel recommendations, Boxers and Saints were both put into my hands. Since I enjoyed the first one, I was anxious to dive into the second! I may have actually liked this one a TEENY bit more than Boxers. The inclusion of a bit of Joan of Arc’s story was an interesting parallel. I really like the way this author weaves stories together in a way that’s easy to follow and that makes sense. (My rating = 4.5 stars)

saga

SagaVolumes 1-6  by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples

I read volume 1 of Saga about a year ago and thought it was wild(ly interesting). This story is so strange and thrilling and shocking that I recently decided I had to see where it went after the first volume. This “saga” follows the relationship between two soldiers from opposite sides of a great war, as well as their family and those who seek to break them apart. It’s violent and sexually graphic. It’s crazy. Sometimes it feels like it doesn’t make sense. But I don’t hate it. Sometimes it’s refreshing to read something this outlandish. (My rating = 3.5-4 stars)

lumberjanes

Lumberjanes: Vol. 1 by Noelle Stevenson, Grace Ellis, Shannon Watters, Brooke A. Allen

I’ve read this volume once before, almost exactly a year ago. I remember that I liked it, but I also remember being confused by it. On this second read through, I’m not sure what I was confused about. I mean, sure there are some questions and some random magical elements, but it’s just the first volume. This story is about a summer camp in the woods for “hard-core lady-types” and this particular group of friends experiences some serious weirdness. It’s really funny (sassy and snarky galore) and the artwork is eye catching. I’m ready to pick up the next volume! (My rating = 4 stars)

Have you read any good graphic novels lately? Let me know in the comments below!

Happy reading! – Caitlyn

I Am Princess X by Cherie Priest

“…if comics have taught us anything, it’s that death is rarely a permanent condition.”

princess-x

Synopsis from GoodreadsOnce upon a time, two best friends created a princess together. Libby drew the pictures, May wrote the tales, and their heroine, Princess X, slayed all the dragons and scaled all the mountains their imaginations could conjure. Once upon a few years later, Libby was in the car with her mom, driving across the Ballard Bridge on a rainy night. When the car went over the side, Libby passed away, and Princess X died with her. Once upon a now: May is sixteen and lonely, wandering the streets of Seattle, when she sees a sticker slapped in a corner window. Princess X? When May looks around, she sees the Princess everywhere: Stickers. Patches. Graffiti. There’s an entire underground culture, focused around a webcomic at IAmPrincessX.com. The more May explores the webcomic, the more she sees disturbing similarities between Libby’s story and Princess X online. And that means that only one person could have started this phenomenon – her best friend, Libby, who lives.

Feelings: I’m always open to reading different book formats – comic books, graphic novels, ebooks, audiobooks, and any combination. This book was a new venture for me in that it’s both a graphic novel and a chapter book. I wasn’t sure how that would play out, but I really enjoyed it! It broke the story flow up a little bit, in a positive way, and made it so that the visuals added a totally different kind of depth to the plot.

Probably my favorite thing about this book was the author’s writing style. The little quips and quirks were so enjoyable and unexpected. This was the author’s first foray into the realm of YA lit and I think she did a great job of being grown-up funny and interesting, while not being too far away from the core of YA. We still got our healthy dose of friendship, loyalty, identity, and all our favorite YA nuances.

This story was twisty! Is Libby alive? Is she publishing Princess X? If so, how’s she managing to pull that off? How did the bad guy make everyone believe that she was dead? After about 50 pages, I was hooked. There were so many different avenues that the story could go down and at that point, I really couldn’t pinpoint where it would go. I like stories that keep me on my toes and keep me guessing!

Issues: I feel like the author was trying to hard sometimes. I don’t know how many references to Seattle I need before I understand that it’s Seattle. I get it. There’s coffee everywhere and the weather and the building and OK ALREADY.

There was so much intensity and mystery…up until literally the last 15 pages. It all just felt rushed and something happens that makes zero sense. As May is telling us where she’s looking (no spoilers) I kept thinking…I get that you’re not a hacker, but you should know that it ISN’T hidden in a drawer or on a bookshelf. She was looking for other clues, yes, but they literally had like 4 minutes to look for what they needed and it just felt like wasted time.

Final thoughts: Don’t judge a book by its cover, friends. Ha! It looks all princessy and cutesy, but dang…it was super creepy at times. It didn’t help that I read this book right around midnight, but still. In the end, I enjoyed this book and thought it was a quick, easy read. It’s different from anything I’ve read before, so it was a nice palette cleanser since I tend to binge read in a genre for a while. As a teacher, I think this is a great book for those students who only choose comics or graphic novels. It would help to bridge the gap towards higher level reading and building those comprehension skills, while still keeping them entertained and close to their comfort zone.

*On the Amazon.com page for this book, it says, “for fans of both Cory Doctorow and Sarah Dessen.” I don’t know Cory, but I know Sarah. I make zero connections between this book and Dessen’s dozen books. That’s my two cents on that.

 

Goodreads rating: 3.99/5

Amazon.com rating: 4.2/5

My rating: 4/5

Happy reading! – Caitlyn

The Complete Maus by Art Spiegelman

“…life always takes the side of life, and somehow the victims are blamed. But it wasn’t the best people who survived, nor did the best ones die. It was random!”

maus

Synopsis from GoodreadsThe Pulitzer Prize-winning Maus tells the story of Vladek Spiegelman, a Jewish survivor of Hitler’s Europe, and his son, a cartoonist coming to terms with his father’s story. Maus approaches the unspeakable through the diminutive. Its form, the cartoon (the Nazis are cats, the Jews mice), shocks us out of any lingering sense of familiarity and succeeds in “drawing us closer to the bleak heart of the Holocaust” (The New York Times). Maus is a haunting tale within a tale. Vladek’s harrowing story of survival is woven into the author’s account of his tortured relationship with his aging father. Against the backdrop of guilt brought by survival, they stage a normal life of small arguments and unhappy visits. This astonishing retelling of our century’s grisliest news is a story of survival, not only of Vladek but of the children who survive even the survivors. Maus studies the bloody pawprints of history and tracks its meaning for all of us.

Feelings: It’s really interesting to see Vladek’s point of view, no only during the war, but before it as well – long before it. He tells his son about his own father’s military experiences in Siberia (where he pulled out 14 of his teeth in order to escape) and how he and Art’s mother met. I was intrigued by what all Vladek had to do in order to avoid the Gestapo. He and Anja had to beg, barter, borrow, and more just to try and survive, constantly being on the move and being incredibly afraid.

What’s really special about this collection of comics is that vulnerability. The author is also a character in the book, discussing his insecurities about trying to write his parents’ truth, which he says was, “a reality that was worse than [his] darkest dreams.” You see him struggling to get the complex reality down on paper and then doing so in a compelling and moving way. The art style itself was really simple. I had just finished a book club where we had read a superhero comic book, discussing the funny anecdotes in the backgrounds of all the panels, like hidden gems. With Maus, though, there were no distractions. The focus was on the storyline, itself, with nothing hidden in the artwork that you needed to closely inspect.

Issues: Art and his father were both so awful to Mala! They were hateful both to her face and behind her back. At the same time, though, she was pretty awful right back toward them. What a strange dynamic.

It was really difficult to get through the sections about gas chambers in Auschwitz. I think it was harder to read about this topic in a comic book setting because of the visuals. It’s one thing to imagine it in your head and it’s another to actually see it drawn out in front of you. As difficult as it was to see, I appreciate that Spiegelman didn’t hide any truths from his readers.

Characters: Vladek reminded me of my grandfather. Now, my grandfather didn’t go through the Holocaust or anything remotely like it, but he was frugal. He placed a high value in making smart monetary choices, all for the betterment of those he’d leave behind when he passed. The cinching of the purse strings frustrated Vladek’s wife, which is something that felt familiar,as well. Also, I liked the way Vladek’s dialogue was written. I could hear him in my head very clearly, accent and all.

I felt for Art. He had a hard relationship with his father, struggling to understand the history that shaped his father. He also wrestled with the death of the older brother he never knew, who died during the war, as well as the loss of his mother. This book focuses a lot on relationships – both with family and with others.

Final thoughts: It’s hard to describe my feelings towards this book. I didn’t necessarily “enjoy” reading this book, because it deals with a heavy subject. If you’re looking for something that’ll lift your spirits and make you laugh, go elsewhere. But if you want to read something that shows you a whole new narrative on a history you thought you knew, this is the read for you. I’m glad that I read it.

Pick this up if you liked:

The Complete Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

V for Vendetta by Alan Moore

Goodreads rating: 4.51/5

Amazon.com rating: 4.6/5

My rating: 4.5/5

Happy reading! – Caitlyn