Review: This One Summer by Jillian and Mariko Tamaki

18465566 Title: This One Summer

Authors: Jillian Tamaki and Mariko Tamaki

Publisher: First Second

Publication Date: May 2014

ISBN: 9781626720947

This One Summer

Synopsis from Goodreads:

Every summer, Rose goes with her mom and dad to a lake house in Awago Beach. It’s their getaway, their refuge. Rosie’s friend Windy is always there, too, like the little sister she never had. But this summer is different. Rose’s mom and dad won’t stop fighting, and when Rose and Windy seek a distraction from the drama, they find themselves with a whole new set of problems. It’s a summer of secrets and sorrow and growing up, and it’s a good thing Rose and Windy have each other.

In This One Summer two stellar creators redefine the teen graphic novel. Cousins Mariko and Jillian Tamaki, the team behind Skim, have collaborated on this gorgeous, heartbreaking, and ultimately hopeful story about a girl on the cusp of her teen age—a story of renewal and revelation.

I was skeptical about this graphic novel when I first picked it up. I held back from purchasing it because, although the artwork is lovely, the price didn’t seem worth the lack of dialogue within the images. I thought I was in for a childish story, better suited for younger readers. I wanted to buy a complex story, not a piece of art. So I borrowed it from a friend. After reading this graphic novel, speeding through it in only an hour, I’m convinced I need to buy a copy for myself.

This story encapsulates that moment in time, framed within the context of a single summer, where a young girl begins her transition from childhood into adulthood, becoming aware of the struggles, complexities, and responsibilities that accompany this turbulent change. Rose and Windy are a year and a half apart in age, rose being the oldest. They are best friends in cottage country and from what I could gather, their lives and experiences together until now, have been innocent, fun, and pure. The year that we meet these two girls is different though. Their friends are hitting puberty and Rose especially has become aware of the world of sex, romance, depression, and adult responsibility. Through complex, monochromatic images, portrayed through the eyes of a child seeking to understand her changing world, Jillian and Mariko convey the universal experiences of loss and confusion that are attached to maturation and adulthood: loss of innocence, coming to understand a new body, confusion feelings.

What really made this story great was that although it is marketed towards younger readers (Chapters sells it in the juvenile graphic novel section), it draws upon the common human experience to relate to readers of all age. Rose’s mother struggles with with the loss of her unborn baby. Her sadness is not something that she is able to communicate to Rose, and her daughter, already struggling with her own transition, lashes out in anger and frustration at seeing her mothers lack of motivation and the tension that exists between her parents. At the same time, Rose seeks to distance herself from her childhood friend. She is at once desiring to hold on to the laughter of her childhood and to create distance from anything that makes her more childish and less adult. She is unable to judge those older than her, particularly and older girl who becomes pregnant out of wedlock, trying to form her own opinions, but her immaturity only allows her to reflect the harsh opinions of the older teenagers around her. Rose attempts to find independence, but she is still too young to full grasp what independence really is. She is a child playing dress up: putting on the too-large shoes and the oversized dress–still a child beneath, but attempting to appear older.

This was a surprisingly excellent read. I would definitely recommend it to anyone. We all experience those transitory stages of growing up and finding our ways as individuals and adults. We all understand what it’s like to want to know more of the world around us and to try and cast off those perceptions of us as childish or immature. Jillian and Mariko Tamaki’s story beautifully, simply, and elegantly portrays the internal struggle of adolescence.

Top Ten Tuesday

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This week’s topic: Ten Book Cover Trends (or just elements of covers) I Like/Dislike. To make things interesting, I’m going to give you find trends/elements that I like and five that I dislike. It’s hard to come up with ten of either likes or dislikes for this one because I find that there are a few trends in the book cover world that tend to be ubiquitous.

Likes:

5. Strategic debossing/embossing. This 1984 cover from Penguin is one of my favourites.

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4. Simplicity and intelligence. Nothing makes more of a statement than simplicity. It can have more of an impact than complicated covers. (P.S. I LOVE Chip Kidd.)

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3. Artistic covers (as opposed to photos). I like images that are drawn and imaginative. To me, it’s like the designer shares his/her interpretation of the book in a way that does not impose their opinion of ideas of the book on the reader. The cover becomes more of a suggestion.

2. Images that cover the entire front cover, back cover, spine. I love how the book and the image become a work of art when the image is an envelope for the entire book.

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1. Bright, uncomplicated images that draw focus and capture your attention. The images is just as important as the text. I like balance and it’s nice to see the text and the image hold equal weight on the page rather than competing for attention.

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Dislikes:

5. Girls in ball gowns. Most of the time, the pretty girl on the cover in the ostentatious dress has little or nothing to do with the actual story. These covers are so generic. There’s just no creativity with these covers. Example:

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4. Faces. How hard is it to slap some words over a profile picture. That’s what these covers feel like to me. When given a cover with a face on it, I feel like I’m being told, “This is your protagonist. This is the face that you’re going to imagine for the next 400 pages.” I like to be able to come up with my own protagonist, not visualize the one set out for me before I even crack open the book.

3. For a while, after the release of the Twilight series, teen book covers were alive with bright, almost monochromatic images on black backgrounds. It was a striking cover the first time around, but it quickly became redundant and boring.

2. Covers that are all text with no image. These covers don’t grab your attention. You want them to catch your attention from the shelves with bold or thought provoking images. Text only covers just don’t have the same visual appeal.

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1. The Divergent circle. There’s no other name for it. Starting with the Divergent series, circles popped up on teen covers everywhere. All the popular books have them. Once one book is successful, others attempt to recreate that success with a similar cover.

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Review: Peter Panzerfaust Vol. 1 by Kurtis J. Weibe

 

13637111 Title: Peter Panzerfaust Vol. 1

Author: Kurtis J. Weibe and Tyler Jenkins

Publisher: Image Comics

Date Published: September 2012

ISBN: 9781607065821

Peter Panzerfaust, Vol. 1: The Great Escape

 Synopsis from Goodreads:

A coming of age tale told through the eyes of a group of French orphans during World War 2 who are saved by a brave and daring American boy named Peter. As they travel together, they get tangled up in the French Resistance in Paris, fighting a growing German presence under the leadership of a fanatical SS officer hell bent on wiping them out! Using the Peter Pan story as a touchstone, Peter Panzerfaust reinvents familiar character and plot elements in a unique and creative way.

I’m normally not a fan of fairy tale adaptations, so my expectations were not very high when I picked Peter Panzerfaust Vol. 1 up to read. I’m going to admit, any preconceptions or assumptions that I made about this comic were WAY off base. Right from page one, I was captivated by this touching tale. I borrow the version I’ve read, but this series, unknown to me before I received it from a friend, has been added to my to-buy list (hopefully soon to be owned).

Peter and the lost boys are orphans, their parents lost in the brutality of WWII. Each boy is touched by the war in a different way–some emerging as leaders, others their ingenuity–but they come together through mutual understanding of loss and a desire to survive. The boys are resourceful and they pull on one another’s strengths, acting as a cohesive group. Although they operate as a unit, they understand each boy’s autonomy. Each has the right to make the decisions that may change or end his own life.They do what they can to aid in the survival of the group, but they are not exempt from feelings of fear, sadness, compassion, desperation, etc. These essentially human experiences provoke them to occasionally act passionately or irrationally, often endangering their lives for the hope of escape and the search for freedom.

The story reveals an understanding of the war on a simplified, but extraordinarily clear level. The boys are close in age to many of the soldiers fighting, still innocence, but forced to kill to survive, tainted by a brutality they hoped never to see. Although they dreamed of a Neverland, a place where nothing existed beyond childhood and where they’d never grow old, the war forces upon them an adult perspective that perhaps they are too young to experience. Their childhood calls to them in times of peace where they can relax and enjoy the company of each other. But brutal adulthood calls in the face of violent when the choice is simply kill or be killed, and these boys, living in an institution because they are not old enough enough for independence, hold the lives of the enemy in their hands.

The story is full of action, and the artwork captures the beauty and elegance of motion that is not often portrayed with elegance in fast-paced, action-packed comics. Combined with the images, Peter Panzerfaust is breathtaking and heartbreaking. I found myself pausing thoughtfully, suddenly. I’d be caught up in the action, pages turning furiously, only to have to pause to take in a stunning image. I relished in these reprieves from the action. There is a contemplative juxtaposition between the violence and the beauty, encapsulated in the thoughtfully placed brush strokes. It is a very intentional piece of work.

Review: Every Day by David Levithan

13262783Title: Every Day

Author: David Levithan

Publisher: Knopf

Date Published: 2012

ISBN: 9780307931887

Every Day (Every Day #1)

Synopsis from Goodreads:

There’s never any warning about where it will be or who it will be. A has made peace with that, even established guidelines by which to live: Never get too attached. Avoid being noticed. Do not interfere.
It’s all fine until the morning that A wakes up in the body of Justin and meets Justin’s girlfriend, Rhiannon. From that moment, the rules by which A has been living no longer apply. Because finally A has found someone he wants to be with—day in, day out, day after day.

What a fascinating and creative concept, to wake up each day in a different body, and having to learn to be someone else and to keep their life as normal as possible, all while holding on tight to the person/being you are. A wakes up as someone else each and every day, and existence that once frightened and confused him, now is his normal. It’s who he is. Until he falls in love.

Levithan’s story addresses heavy topics in an approachable way. Suicide, depression, drugs, death, gender identity, love, abuse. These are all realities to A who never knows what he’s going to be when he wakes up (I use the term loosely as A is more of a presence that identifies as both male and female). Although his visits are brief, A establishes himself as a confident being who understands who he is, but even he struggles in the face of the fog of clinical depression or the confines of drug abuse. A’s story is one of hope, that there is life outside of the negative. That life is worth living and, even for one who may never know love–romantic, familial, or otherwise–there is something or someone out there living for.

What I enjoyed about Every Day is that it doesn’t try to hide the harsh realities of struggling teens. It’s not afraid to point out the issues that students struggle with on a daily basis. A is not held captive by the struggles of the bodies he inhabits, but he still feels the effects of their lives, no matter how aloof and distant he attempts to remain. And in his own way, he tries to help them, to whatever extent he can without become totally intrusive.

It’s a struggle to wrap your head around A’s possession and manipulation of each and every body, especially with no why or how explained (presumably to be revealed in the next book). He’s described by one character as the devil and this attribution identifies the sinister aspect of his experience. A’s grasp on reality and existence is out of his control, but one can’t help by be disturbed by the moral struggle presented: should A be able to possess each body and live his own existence as he pleases, or should he recede and allow his host as much autonomy as can be allowed?

Overall, it was a good read. It’s definitely worth checking out. Be prepared for a fast paced, constantly changing and adapting narrative. No two pages are alike.

Review: Never Have I Ever by Katie Heaney

17159009 Title: Never Have I Ever: My Life (So Far) Without A Date

Author: Katie Heaney

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Date Published: January 2014

ISBN: 9781455544677

Never Have I Ever: my life (so far) without a date

 Synopsis from Goodreads:

So begins Katie Heaney’s memoir of her years spent looking for love, but never quite finding it. By age 25, equipped with a college degree, a load of friends, and a happy family life, she still has never had a boyfriend … and she’s barely even been on a second date.

Throughout this laugh-out-loud funny book, you will meet Katie’s loyal group of girlfriends, including flirtatious and outgoing Rylee, the wild child to Katie’s shrinking violet, as well as a whole roster of Katie’s ill-fated crushes. And you will get to know Katie herself — a smart, modern heroine relaying truths about everything from the subtleties of a Facebook message exchange to the fact that “Everybody who works in a coffee shop is at least a little bit hot.”

Funny, relatable, and inspiring, this is a memoir for anyone who has ever struggled to find love, but has also had a lot of fun in the process.

For any girl who’s every had a crush on a boy, who’s fallen in love unrequitedly, or who’s been unsure of whether it’s love or not, Katie Heaney knows exactly how you feel and in Never Have I Ever she tells us it’s okay to feel the way we feel and be the way we are, no matter who we are. I have never read a story so true to my own life and my own thoughts about life, friendship, and dating. There were times where I felt like I was reading my own diary.

Katie’s experiences, although often a struggle for her, are awesome in their hilarity. She’s brutally honest and definitely real. She doesn’t hold anything back and because of this openness, her stories reach out to you in a way that’s unique, clear, and wrapped with amusement. I’ve never laughed so loud in so many public places: trains, bus stops, restaurants, other people’s homes. During the course of these pages, I’ve been asked what I’m reading, why it’s so funny, what does it say. This book is infectious! The laughter can’t be contained.

Every girl out there will relate to Kaite in one way or another. She speaks about a universal experience. Her experiences tell us that we aren’t alone. There are others out there that are just as awkward, socially inept, flirtatiously challenged as we are. It’s nice not to be the only one.

If you haven’t already read it, Never Have I Ever is a must read. I highly recommending. You’ll be laughing all those awkward memories and those geeky moments away!

Top Ten Tuesday

toptentuesday

 

This Top Ten Tuesday will be more of a recap than anything else. The topic this week is “top ten books I’ve read this year.” Now, since you’ve listened to me go on and on about all of the books that I’ve read in my posts, I won’t bore you again with why I like them. I’ll simply list them and keep things short and simple. I’ve reviewed all of these books, except for maybe one or two, so if you’d like to know why I liked each book, those posts are buried really, REALLY deep on this website somewhere. I’m sorry.

10. The Homeland Directive by Robert Venditti

9. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut

8. The Orenda by Joseph Boyden

7. The Enchanted by Rene Denfeld

6. The Last Man by Brian K. Vaughn

5. Daughter of Smoke and Bone Series by Laini Taylor

4. A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki

3. Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi

2. Blankets by Craig Thompson

1. Lullabies for Little Criminals by Heather O’Neill (now one of my favourite books, probably of all time)

What is your favourite book that you’ve read so far this year? I’d love to have some suggestions for future books. What about your least favourite book?

Review: The Bookman’s Tale by Charlie Lovett

16158563 Title: The Bookman’s Tale

Author: Charlie Lovett

Publisher: Viking

Publication Date: May 2013

ISBN: 9780143125389

The Bookman's Tale: A Novel of Obsession

 Synopsis from Goodreads:

Hay-on-Wye, 1995. Peter Byerly isn’t sure what drew him into this particular bookshop. Nine months earlier, the death of his beloved wife, Amanda, had left him shattered. The young antiquarian bookseller relocated from North Carolina to the English countryside, hoping to rediscover the joy he once took in collecting and restoring rare books. But upon opening an eighteenth-century study of Shakespeare forgeries, Peter is shocked when a portrait of Amanda tumbles out of its pages. Of course, it isn’t really her. The watercolor is clearly Victorian. Yet the resemblance is uncanny, and Peter becomes obsessed with learning the picture’s origins.
As he follows the trail back first to the Victorian era and then to Shakespeare’s time, Peter communes with Amanda’s spirit, learns the truth about his own past, and discovers a book that might definitively prove Shakespeare was, indeed, the author of all his plays. 

I am a huge sucker for a bookish hero. The Bookman’s Tale, including it’s protagonist Peter Byerly, is the perfect combination of a tentative, loving, bookish hero, literary scandal, and the violence that accompanies greed. This book delves into the world of literary forgeries, why they are created, how they are found, and the impact they have on the literary community. Really exciting stuff!

Peter is a quiet, shy, book-loving kind of guy. He’s socially awkward and has an anxiety disorder that for the early part of his life, goes untreated. His story is really alluring and admirable because he find his strength and his courage in his passion for the love of his life, Amanda, and for the many volumes that preserve our literary history. Watching his transformation from a timid, uncertain man, into someone who’s brave and in control added that heartfelt aspect to the story. He’s a hero that you want to see succeed, but you’re unsure if he has the capabilities to do so. Peter doesn’t disappoint.

His love for Amanda is touching, often to the point of being sappy. I took it in a very light-hearted way. It was sweet to see him find his perfect match, the two of them brought together by fate and a love for rare books. Sometimes their romance tended towards the sickly sweet and unrealistic end of the spectrum, but the story isn’t really about their romance. It’s about Peter’s inner transformation that this romance contributes to. Without this romance, Peter might not have made the discoveries he did, he may not have had the same successful career, and he may not have been able to act so confidently in times of crisis.

The story is structured to jump between three different worlds: 1995, the 1980s, and past (Shakespearean). I thought this was a nice touch. Not only do we see Peter’s personal story, we see the story of the Pandosto and how significant writers, book sellers, and book collectors through time are connected by a unifying passion to preserve literary history, but they are not except from the human emotions of greed, desire, anger, and jealousy. The story speaks to the ubiquity of literature and how books inspire people to act in the extreme in order to preserve what’s worth preserving, and to seek out the truth.

Overall, this was a very light and easy read. It didn’t have a huge amount of substance, but it was enjoyable. For any book nerds who love stories about the gritty, cut-throat world of crime and literary forgeries, this is a pretty good read for you. It’s about those books and those secrets that are worth killing for, and those people who dedicate their lives to uncovering those hidden truths buried by literary scandal.