Brace yourselves, September was quite a big reading month!
Yep, still reading the comics. Still getting strange looks for being a seemingly grown woman in a Batman t-shirt reading what is essentially a picture book on a Wednesday afternoon. Not really, I don’t think they let people into Livermore library if they aren’t lovely.
I’ve read many graphic novels since my last post, so I’ll do a very quick breakdown (you can click on the links if you fancy a more in-depth look).
The Guild – Written by Felicia Day, she of internet fame. The Guild is a sweet, short graphic novel about a girl liberating herself from her awful musician boyfriend and finding joy in online gaming. I’m aware it’s based on the TV show, which I haven’t seen. To be honest, after reading this, I don’t feel particularly inclined to check it out. Make of that what you will. Not earth-shattering, but quite enjoyable. And Felicia Day seems pretty cool.
Y: The Last Man – This was interesting. It focusses on young Yorick (as in, alas poor), who is literally the last man on Earth. This first volume sets up the scenario and the characters nicely, including a monkey called Ampersand, Yorick’s only fellow male. I really enjoyed it, and wanted to read further, but the library only has volumes 1,3 and 4. Doh!
The Arrival – This book is beautiful. Through gorgeous illustrations, it tells the story of a man leaving his native land to seek employment and money to support his family. It beautifully conveys the problems that come with emigration, such as language/cultural barriers, and trying to establish yourself in new surroundings, all without written dialogue. Highly recommended for fans of unconventional storytelling.
Beautiful Darkness – Don’t let the vibrant watercolours fool you, this book is bleak. This one is about a group of little creatures that make up the personality of a little girl. Except, the little girl is dead in the woods, and these little creatures have to fend for themselves. Like if the Brothers Grimm wrote Inside Out. Very weird, with lots of dark humour, this was another hit with me.
Displacement: A Travelogue – Lucy Knisley’s memoir of a cruise she went on with her declining grandparents. I appreciated Knisley’s honesty about how it can be frustrating to deal with aging family members, especially when you love them so much. Knisley also includes sections of her grandfather’s war memoirs, which was a wonderful addition. A genuinely interesting story, and I was completely engrossed.
Tomboy – Another graphic memoir, this time by Liz Prince, about visual expectations of femininity. I could completely relate, as I am perfectly capable of covering myself in make-up and sticking a dress on to conform to traditional expectations of how a woman should look, but most of the time you will find me in jeans and the aforementioned Batman t-shirt. There wasn’t too much a narrative in Tomboy, so it wasn’t as strong as Displacement, but still a good read.
I read some other graphic novels, but they weren’t too amazing. Black River, Sloth, and It Never Happened Again, if you’re interested.
I’ve read a couple of lighter books this month, because why not? Surely any kind of reading is good, right?
Many moons ago, a good friend recommended Me Before You by Jojo Moyes. I made a mental note of it, at the time not enquiring what the book was about. Recently, I learned it was about a young woman, Lou, who gets a job as a carer to a man, Will, who is recently disabled. The book is about their initially uneasy relationship, and how eventually how they bring out the best in each other. Possibly a little more chick-lit than my usual tastes (sorry, I hate that term, but you can’t argue that the genre doesn’t exist), but this was still an enjoyable read. The characters were realistic, and mostly likable. I’m sure the movie will be great, as Emilia “Daenerys” Clarke is playing Lou. I don’t agree with the casting of Sam Clafin as Will (too young), but what do I know, eh?
I also read a book called Movie Star by Lizzie Pepper, which is actually by celebrity ghost-writer Hilary Liftin. The book is about a young Hollywood starlet who is seemingly selected to fall in love with an older actor who is involved with a mysterious quasi-religious organisation. IN NO WAY IS THIS BOOK BASED ON THE LIFE OF KATIE HOLMES. DEFINITELY NOT. What does it matter that the main character was in a popular teen-drama, completely different from Dawson’s Creek, when she was younger? Or if this religion is highly secretive and makes people disappear? This is a work of fiction, my friends. Yep. It’s also pretty entertaining. If you want something for a flight, or a few hours by the pool, this might be the book for you.
The Good Stuff
Yes Please, by Amy Poehler – I worked my way through this inspirational, funny, and powerful book within two days. Put it this way, when I begin to have negative thoughts about myself, I now imagine a tiny (tinier? She’s the same height as me) Amy Poehler beating up my inner demons for me. And it works too! She’s badass.
Seriously, this book is great. I love Poehler. If you can get through that difficult first season of Parks and Recreation, it is a very rewarding series. Poehler’s section about her favourite memories of the show and the cast are wonderful, and frequently reduced me to tears (much like the show does). But my favourite parts of this book are when Amy is sharing her very personal experiences, and passing her wisdom onto the reader. There is also a very moving chapter written by her friend Seth Myers, where he (rightly) sings Amy’s praises. (Self-indulgence time – it reminded me of the time a dear friend wrote something similar for me.)
Yes Please is now up there with Caitlin Moran’s How To Be a Woman in terms of a survival guide for me. It is such a wonderful book. Everyone should read it. Or listen to the audiobook like I did. Hearing Patrick Stewart read haikus about plastic surgery is like an instant injection of joy.
Hangmen, by Martin McDonagh – I probably miss having the opportunity to nip to London to randomly see a play more than I miss Manchester at the moment. Martin McDonagh is one of my favourite playwrights, and his play Pillowman is in my top four plays of all time (along with Blackbird, Orphans, and The Last of the Hausmanns, since you asked). So I was gutted when I saw Hangmen was opening at the Royal Court once I’d already left the country. Especially since of my heroes, Reece Shearsmith, is in the cast.
Anyway, I did the next best thing, and read the script. It’s fantastic, I knew it would be. It’s about a group of ex-hangmen dealing with the abolition of their “trade”, amongst other things. And of course, it’s full of McDonagh’s sharp, hilarious dialogue, and beautiful devices that keep the reader/audience exactly where the playwright wants them. Luckily, the play is transferring to the West End just in time for my brief Christmas visit to the UK, so I may get chance to see it yet. But Shearsmith won’t be in the cast. Arses.
Pretty Is, by Maggie Mitchell – Another book following my strange fascination with child abduction (see Room, Our Endless Numbered Days, Tiger Tiger, to name but a few), this is about two girls who were kidnapped by a stranger when they were 12, but were rescued six weeks later unharmed. As grown-ups, Lois has written a novel based on the incident, and Carly May is an actress who has been cast in the movie adaptation. The two girls fell out of touch over the years, and mentally revisit their experiences in anticipation of their upcoming encounter. The two female characters are interesting, and the book is okay, but it ended a little abruptly for me. I got the sense that things weren’t fully resolved, but I guess that reflects the fact that the girls never found out why they were selected to be kidnapped by this strange man. If the theme of this book appeals to you, I’d recommend the three books I mentioned earlier over this one.
Eileen, by Ottessa Moshfegh – I spent most of this book having no clue where it was going, but thoroughly enjoying the ride. And when everything was revealed, it was extremely exciting. A definite “holy shit!” moment. I won’t say too much about this one, but if you enjoy the work of Shirley Jackson, or any novel with a strange, insecure female protagonist, please pick this up. One of my favourite books of this year.
Brooklyn, by Colm Toibin – I’ve saved the best, or certainly the most personal, for last. Eilis, an Irish teenager, is given the chance to leave her small-town life to start an exciting new chapter in America. Once she arrives, she falls in love, makes new friends, and has limitless potential. But when a family tragedy brings her back to Ireland, people assume she will resume her former life as if she’d never left. They also think she gives the impression that she’s now better than the people she left behind. She has to decide whether she wants to continue the stagnant life of her hometown, or resume her exciting life overseas.
Like the graphic novel The Arrival, the book is about establishing yourself as a new person in unfamiliar surroundings. It is also trying to ignore any jealous attempts by the people you’ve left behind to devalue your new experiences. Given my circumstances, it spoke extremely loudly to me. I’d recommend this book to anyone who has ever attempted to change themselves, but felt dragged down by people who have never taken any steps to change themselves in a positive way. Alternatively, there’s a movie adaptation by Nick Hornby coming out in November, which looks great.
So that was September! At the moment I’m making a start of the Maus graphic novels by Art Spiegelman. I’ve also got Hanya Yanagihara’s The People in the Trees, although after the trauma of A Little Life, I’m not sure I’m emotionally ready for it! I’ve also got Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty, as well as The Boy Who Drew Monsters by Keith Donohue. And I’m still listening to Carsick, by another one of my heroes, John Waters.
Free Horror Audiobook!
Audible have done an audio adaptation of Joe Hill’s graphic novel series Locke and Key, and it is FREE for a limited period. No catches, you can just log into Audible with your Amazon details. I haven’t listened to it yet, but I enjoyed the graphic novels, as well as Joe Hill’s work in general, and the cast includes Kate Mulgrew, who is a phenomenal voice actor (as well as Janeway and Red). Click here to have a look!