book reviews, crafts, cheap things…

Posts tagged “graphic novel

El Deafo by Cece Bell

El deafo

This is a sweet and clever graphic memoir about growing up deaf in the 1970’s. All the characters are drawn as bunnies. Cute art, poignant points, good story. Cataloged as a children’s book but could work for anyone.

Get one here.

Book reviews: Travelly comics

So I read a bunch of stuff, then got really distracted. Here’s  a couple of the graphic novels.

RED EYE, BLACK EYE by K. Thor Jensen

Red eye, black eye

Grabbed this one from the library on a lunch break.

It’s the travelogue of a guy who gets dumped/fired/evicted, so he buys the legendary unlimited Greyhound pass and travels around the country. The protagonist seems like a big jerk, and I honestly found myself wondering how he’d ever attained a girlfriend (with his bad attitude and rape threats toward women at the bar) in the first place.  It really wasn’t the travel story that I wanted it to be. Reminded me a little too much of pretentious bro-art snobs living off their parents’ dime. But the whole thing was structured fine, and I liked the art. get a copy if you’re into that.

Truth is Fragmentary by Gabrielle Bell

Truth is fragmentary : travelogues & diaries

I waited for this one for a few months from the library. It’s mostly a travel diary as Bell moves between speaking engagements, readings, and sabbaticals out in the country. Bell has a peculiar knack to write/illustrate a daily diary in the most disconnected of ways. Like, a series of actions but not a chronicle of self. or something. I typically really like her work, but maybe it wasn’t the right time for me to read this one. At times I skipped parts because I felt bored, and at other times I was frustrated that she didn’t seem more excited about getting to travel to different places in the world. Call it envy if you need to. Regardless, much like real life, there were still moments that were delightful to read through. Like too-familiar bouts of awkwardness, for example.

Get one here or here.


Book Review: Over Easy by Mimi Pond

Over easy

Well that was nice!

It’s the late 1970’s and Margaret quits art school (CCA (then CCAC) in Oakland, CA) to be a waitress at the diner by the art school that caters to artists, bohemians, etc. This book is an account of some of the stuff that happens during that time.

The entire book is done in green, black, and white, and the pictures are nice to look at. The stories are amusing, and will resonate with people who have worked in restaurants before. Check it out!

Book: Pregnant Butch by AK Summers

Pregnant butch : nine long months spent in drag

Yayyy for queer comics! Pregnant Butch chronicles our butch protagonist Teek through the journey of realizing she’d like to have a kid, acquiring sperm, being pregnant, and later giving birth. Both humorous and tender, this graphic novel simultaneously critiques both the birthing industry and our society’s weirdness with gender, in whole.

Totally great. Comics world kind of lacks butches, so this is a good addition. Find a library copy or buy one.

Book Review: Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh

Hyperbole and a Half.

I learned after the fact that this book is based on a fuckin’ awesome blog. I am so excited to add it to my blog reader! All the Hilarious +(sometimes) Deeeep memoir stuff is right up my alley. The dog drawings are A+.

Get a copy here; read the blog and buy the stuff here!

Book Review: Gingerbread Girl by Paul Tobin and Colleen Coover

Gingerbread girl
Sadly I wrote a big review of this book and wordpress dissolved it into thin air as soon as I pressed “publish.” Bummer.

This comic is about Annah, and told through the eyes of people/animals who regularly interact with her. She’s described as a confused bisexual tease with some lovable quirks. Annah never gets to speak for herself, which is honestly a little too “male gaze-y” for my taste, and there’s some kind of weird management of the subject of mental health which was kind of uncomfortable.
But the story remains interesting and unique, and the illustrations are adorable. Especially “Pidgy” the pigeon. I’d read an entire book about Pidgy.

Photo on 2-25-14 at 8.54 PM #2

find a copy here

Book Review: The Infinite Wait and Other Stories by Julia Wertz

The infinite wait and other stories

I reserved this book from the library as soon as I finished Drinking At The Movies. Upon checking it out, I read it in like 2 seconds. This volume brings us from childhood to the present-ish, and back again. It’s in 3 segments:

1. Industry (crappy and awesome jobs through Wertz’s life. lots of food industry stuff that I could seriously relate to)

2. The Infinite Wait (moving to SF and getting a diagnosis and living and stuff. oh, san francisco. The author and I may have some different opinions about homelessness, but the rest was lovely)

3. A Strange and Curious Place (about the hometown and the hometown library. yay libraries.)

I liked this one just as much as I liked the other one; I pretty much sat down with it and didn’t get back up until I was finished reading it (when I was doing other things I was totally thinking about getting back to it). The illustrations are alluring, the pace is good, the plot is engaging, and I want more.

get one at the library or from the author

Book Review: Drinking at the Movies by Julia Werta

Drinking at the movies

I really like this graphic memoir by Julia Wertz (of Fart Party, which is not about farts). I’m really tired and I have a headache so I’m not gonna write much– but if you like attractively illustrated creative & cynical misanthropes, awkward bluntness, and truth that is sometimes hilarious and sometimes sad,  Wertz is totally your cartoonist. After finishing this book, I immediately sought out more.

get one at the library, get one from the author.

Book Review: Blue is the Warmest Color

Blue is the warmest color

This graphic novel recently got famous, as (an apparently really great film that I haven’t seen yet)  is based upon it. I waited for ages for it to come in at the library– and I want to turn it in quick because there are tons of people in line behind me who have been waiting for it for ages as well.

This is one of those tragically sad/beautiful love stories that people like so much. Based on Clementine’s diaries, the story centers around her coming of age as a lesbian, and her (tumultuous) relationship with Emma. But the whole story begins with Emma reading those diaries at Clementine’s (horribly homophobic) parents’ house after she has died. Sigh, I know.

The writing and art is solid enough that a few minutes of reading past this tragic premise (in the first few pages), I’d forgotten the sad part (until the end, of course). The art is totally gorgeous, and the (often really drawn out) sex scenes come as close to being to being hot as cartoon sex scenes are going to get for me. Certain parts of the story seem a little trite (like the conclusion to the beach scene near the end), but over all there’s a whole lot of solid romantic story compressed into a mere 156 beautifully painted pages.

Find a library copy here or buy one from the publisher here.

Book Review: Relish My Life in the Kitchen by Lucy Knisley

Relish : my life in the kitchen

Knisley was raised amongst foodies and really really appreciates the craft and flavors of fine cooking.

This graphic memoir is nestled into this reality and is quite lovely to read. The illustrations are clear and bright, and the vignettes are interesting and easy to follow. She includes adorably illustrated recipes! It’s pretty meats- and dairy-heavy so I didn’t feel a ton of kinship with the author, but that’s ok.

It’s cute! Publishers Weekly and some other big reviewers liked it, so get in on the cultural knowledge and check it out!

Book: The Voyeurs by Gabrielle Bell

The voyeurs

The Voyeurs is an illustrated partial-memoir of a few years of Gabrielle Bell’s life. Read it! I really liked it.

I found it to be rather enjoyable for the following reasons:

1. The art (and also, from a reader’s standpoint,  it wasn’t super-easy to mix up different characters). 2. the personal-ness. 3. You really get your read’s worth: lots of stuff happens. 4. Made me want to pick up more of her books. 5. The complex of social and anti-social and self-deprecation meets art meets creativity. 6. The fact that my bff (i wish) Valerie Solanas  gets a hearty chunk of story (in a way that may or may not have shadowed patterns from Solanas’ life)

This wasn’t really a book review, so I didn’t title it as so. But check out the book!


Book Review: Psychiatric Tales by Darryl Cunningham

Psychiatric tales : eleven graphic stories about mental illness

This is a series of short graphic vignettes about Cunningham’s time working in a Psychiatric hospital. They were written both to explain the work that Cunningham did there– and to destigmatize various kinds of mental illness. A variety of people’s mental situations are described, including Cunningham’s own at the end. Most of them are pretty damn stark. It’s an important collection, gripping at times, and I read through it in about half an hour.

The book was made to destigmatize mental illness, but I still felt like there was some objectification going on. Like maybe the most “extreme” cases were focused on?  I am wondering if my “objectification alarm” was simply going off because any discussion of mental illness whatsoever in our culture is so rare? I’m note sure yet.

But I like Cunningham’s drawing style and this graphic novel is unique in subject matter so maybe you should check it out.

Here’s where you can find a copy at your nearest library

Books! A brief summary…

As I mentioned in a previous post, I’ve been doing a lot of resting lately, due to my obnoxious bicycle injury (ow, my arm).

The only upside is that I’ve been doing a ton of reading. Here’s a synopsis (that doesn’t include the secret “best-seller” trilogy  that I’m 2/3 of the way through and planning to do a full review of, when I can finally get the final book from the library):

Zita the spacegirl

Cute graphic novel about an adventurous girl, who one day while playing in a field with her friend presses a mysterious red button and gets the two of them transported into a weird post-apocalyptic alternative space dimension. Upon their arrival her friend gets kidnapped and she must bravely save him (making robot friends along the way). Cute and innocuous wizard of oz-type story for an elementary/middle school crowd. find a copy here


Nice little middle-school graphic novel that weaves together rock’n’roll, cancer, science, and friendships. Check out a copy here.

The Disenchantments

BFF’s Colby and Bev just graduated high school and it’s time to fulfill their teen dream of first touring the Northwest with Bev’s band– and then traveling around Europe for a year before college. But surprise! There’s a major change of plans! The Disenchantments is the story of the band’s tour following the “change.” I read this book in a single sitting and I really liked the author’s aesthetic. The colors and styles and places all feel kind of sunbleached and real, and there are lots of poignant moments and pockets of adventure. Find a copy of this rad little coming of age story here.

Cameron and the girls

Teenage Cameron has schizophreniform disorder and decides to go off his meds. There’s a new girl at school and a new girl’s voice in his head (his “girlfriend”), in addition to other voices that he, alone, hears. Things get a little nuts (he makes some dangerous choices and runs away from home), there’s a big “blow-up” of events, and he ultimately ends up on meds again. This was the first YA novel that I’ve read about schizophrenia. It was a fine read (and it does a nice job of explaining the disorder, which I’d never heard of), but there was something about it that rubbed me in a weird way. Maybe the narrator was just a little too one-dimensional? Or perhaps schizophreniform disorder was used as too much of a plot device– I suppose the author is a clinical psychologist, so maybe that’s why? Still, reading it won’t waste your time. Find a copy here.

Book Review: Marbles:mania, depression, Michelangelo, & me : a graphic memoir by Ellen Forney

Marbles : mania, depression, Michelangelo, & me : a graphic memoir

I like Ellen Forney’s comics.

(I think I first saw her work in some anthology when I was a teenager, before I even really knew that comics existed beyond the sunday funnies and Superman– and that WOMEN CAN WRITE THEM)

Marbles is a memoir about getting diagnosed as bipolar and dealing with it. It’s quite good. It’s arranged into an engaging story that you don’t want to put down. Even when your laundry load’s up 3 blocks away at the laundromat and you know that if you don’t get  your ass off the couch soon to go and get it that one guy who sleeps there might start going through your stopped dryer and claim that perfect hoodie that you found on the corner of 8th ave and California st the other day for himself– it was still hard to pull myself away.

There are lots of dimensions to the book: Forney talks about her early skepticism of the diagnosis, the lengthy process of finding meds that aren’t awful, “coming out” at bipolar to other people… She also clearly did a nice chunk of research on famous bipolar artists and writers and weaves that into the story. She does a solid job of combining dark, raw moments with hilarious moments– at times it feels diary-like, like you accidentally found it while you were creeping through her bedroom…


Book Review: The Nao of Brown by Glyn Dillon

The Nao of Brown

This graphic novel is kind of gorgeously put together. It’s a good-sized heavy hardback with red page edges and the art inside (ink and watercolor i think) uses lots of reds and blacks. I really like the art. The whole tome is classy and significant-feeling.

So it’s about Nao who is somewhere in her 20’s and some stuff that happens in her life over the period of maybe a couple months. She’s got some sometimes- debilitating OCD (she has violent repetitive thoughts), a surprising love interest, a part time job, spiritual work, and art. It’s a substantial multi- layered story that even has a parallel not related (but actually kind of related) story woven in.I found Nao’s outfits, insecurities, and decorating to be relatable.

It’s only a few months old (came out in October 2012), and if it’s not already popular in the graphic novel realm, I imagine that it will be soon. It’ll be one of those books that Amazon recommends to you over and over again for years. The only thing that marred the awesomeness of the book for me was that it wasn’t autobiographical. It made me kind of uncomfortable that the male artist/author was writing about a female and her mental illness in such a personal way. It rubbed me as maybe a little exploitative; it felt like that element was there just for the sake of a good story.

But on the upside, it’s a totally good story. You should read it.

Find  copy HERE

Book Review: Little White Duck: A Childhood In China

Little White Duck : a childhood in China

I really liked this graphic memoir. I think that any reasonable person would have a hard time disliking it.

Split into 8 stories, Little White Duck is a total gem that is both hard-hitting and soft, all at once. The pictures are freakin’ adorable, and every bit of dialog has a purpose. There are Chinese cultural notes at the beginning and end of the book for the curious reader, and they include a glossary, map, and timeline.


Find a copy HERE

Book Review: Unterzakhn by Leela Corman


Unterzakhn (which basically means “underwear” in Yiddish) transports us to New York’s Lower East Side in the early 2th century. We follow twin sisters Esther and Fanya through their child years, their teen years, and then their adult years.The sisters are close during childhood– but their passions lead them in very different (and for the era, contradictory) directions.

I don’t want to give away too many details, but you should totally check out this graphic novel. The art has depth, but is also approachable. The characters are decently fleshed out.  The rich plot goes all over the place (in a good way), and touches on family history, death, abortion, brothels, hollywood, gender, love, and more. The story ends with a bit of a punch to the stomach, but nobody promised you a happy ending.

Find A Copy Here

Book Review: Spit and Passion by Christy C Road

Spit and passion

This graphic memoir is actually pretty great. If you’ve read Christy C Road’s other stuff or are familiar with her art, then you kind of already know what you’re getting into. Sorta. Except for that Spit and Passion tackles adolescence this time around. And it’s a good thing.

Framed by her discovery of the band Green Day, Spit chronicles Road’s journey toward identity. She really quite flawlessly nails down how fucking powerful music can be when you’re that certain age, and how music really IS, in a lot of ways, identity. She details stuff that I hadn’t really thought about in a long time, like how band members can become superheroes/narrative players in the adolescent mind, how obsessing over a band can be a great mask for queerness, how band members can be  unknowingly wrangled in as templates for adolescent futures. It’s personal– but, you know– universal.

Find a copy here

Book Review: Bottomless Bellybutton by Dash Shaw

The bottomless belly button
This graphic novel is one of the best books that I’ve read this year (I’ve read 81 so far).

Weighing in at over 3 pounds and consisting of over 700 pages, I’m still thinking about it even though I’m already onto reading something new. It’s mostly about relationships within a family. As the cover states, it’s not a kids’ book– it’ll be better understood by people who are old enough to have experienced heartbreak and seeing your parents get older and stuff.

The three adult children of the Looney family (and their kids/partners) are called out to visit their parents’ seaside home. Without warning, their parents announce that they are getting a divorce after 40 years of marriage. In the following pages, we see how each of them deal with it– as well as what happens to them for the week or so that they are there.

This book is really an amazing work. There’s lots of poignancy and mystery and edged-at emotion. It’s ridiculously compelling. Also, I don’t have a lot of experience describing comics– but Shaw has a really interesting style. The drawings are cartoony– but also really detailed; he does this neat thing of adding words to the images, which I at first thought was due to uncertainty about whether the reader could tell what was going on in the picture, but now i’m thinking that it adds weight to the circumstances covered.

read it.

find it here.