Graphic Novel Review: Mer by Joelle Sellner

merMer
by Joelle Sellner

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Synopsis:

Twilight meets the legend of Atlantis in this gripping graphic novel from writer Joelle Sellner and artist Abby Boeh. After the death of her beloved mother, Aryn’s father has moved her family to a new town hoping for a fresh start. At first, things seem to be going well—Aryn is making friends and has even caught the eye of one of the hottest guys in school. But there are dark forces moving under the surface that Aryn cannot see; her new crush may not be … human.

My Review:

3.5 of 5 Stars

I really enjoyed all aspects of this graphic novel. The artwork was bright and colorful which made each character really come to life. Some difficult topics are touched on through back story through Aryn’s mothers demise. It made it easier to connect with her on an emotional level, especially when she had trouble making friends at school. I was less than impressed with the Dad. I get a bit tired of the cliche parents who don’t seem to know how or even desire to listen to their teenage children. I disliked greatly how he forced both of his daughters into working for him without regard to how it would impact them. He also didn’t really give much explanation or empathy for quite a while. On an entirely different note I’ve no idea how I feel about the romance in this story.

On an entirely different note, I’ve no idea how I feel about the romance in this story. In some ways, I really enjoyed it because it was intense and easy to get into. It was also insta love at it’s finest and didn’t really hold any depth. The lack of any true personal connection took away from the impact of the ending. I had issues with the ending besides that but it was cute enough.

Overall, it’s an adorable story though a little cliche in some respects. I still recommend it because it’s fun. The artwork really lends itself to the story and would be great inspiration for any artist.

Thank you to Diamond Comic Distributors for providing me with a galley of this graphic novel in exchange for my honest review.

Review: Gauntlet by Holly Jennings

Gauntlet 
by Holly Jennings

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Source: ARC from Netgalley, Berkley Publishing Group

Synopsis:

Plug back into the dangerous world of virtual gaming, in the next thrilling novel from the author of Arena.

Kali Ling isn’t afraid of dying. She’s been killed hundreds of times in hundreds of different ways. And she knows there are things much more terrifying than death…

There’s a new game in town. A brutal, winner-takes-all, international video game tournament between the world’s most elite players, promising fame, prestige, and unbelievable fortune. But there’s a catch. The game uses new VR pods guaranteed to push digital warriors to their physical and psychological brink—adapting every time a gamer makes a move.

As the first female captain and youngest team owner in VGL history, Kali is used to defying the odds. But as the all-star tournament heats up, her determination begins to waver and the pressures of media, sponsors and the game itself begin to put cracks in her hard-set convictions.

If Kali’s Team Defiance is to survive, they’ll have to find a way to be stronger than ever before. But battling the system may prove too difficult for even the most hardened of fighters…

My Review:

3.5 of 5 Stars

After reading Arena a while ago I was pretty excited to find out how the series continued. That said, by the time I actually got around to reading this second book in the series, my anticipation had died down. I wasn’t as connected with the characters which made it difficult to get into the story. For about half of the book, Kali just irritated and annoyed me. She’s meant to be this badass female lead character that has done so much but instead of being that strong leader she’s just… whiney. She’s also impulsive and sometimes short-sighted with many of her decisions for the team as a whole. I’d like to say the rest of the team is better but not really. A few new people are sort of introduced but just barely. Each member of her team is a little more fleshed out in this book and we get to know some of their darker or more hidden secrets which help in some instances. I did find myself growing frustrated that they weren’t more understanding of her position as a team owner. Not a single member of the team really even attempts to take into account her position with sponsors or the VGL.

I was getting more and more annoyed with these issues but at around the middle mark of the book, things began to improve greatly. Issues with the team itself started to make more sense and get resolved and we got to focus on the real drama with the tournament. I admit I was almost glued to the pages for the final third as the plot moved forward faster and faster. I sort of saw the ending coming though not exactly as it turned out. Most things wrap up rather nicely but there is a sort of cliffhanger at the ending. It’s not enough to leave me in pain but it opens up a lot of room for the next book in the series which I’ll most likely want to read.

 

Review: The Sound of the World By Heart by Giacomo Bevilacqua

The Sound of the World By Heart
by Giacomo Bevilacqua

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Source: ARC from NetgalleyDiamond Comic Distributors

Synopsis:

An experiment in social isolation turns into a journey of self-discovery as a photojournalist commits to spending sixty days in New York city without talking to a single person. More than just an exercise in observation and self-control, he’s hoping to forget a troubled past and mend a broken heart. But the city has a sneaky way of throwing the best laid plans and noble efforts to waste, revealing secrets that lie right in front of him. All he has to do is open his eyes…

A touching, vividly illustrated journey through contemporary modern New York, exploring what it takes to find yourself — and maybe your soul mate — in the middle of a crowded, bustling modern world.

My Review:

2.5 of 5 Stars

What I first noticed with this graphic novel was the artwork which I really enjoyed. Several scenes included cityscapes which were my favorite, possibly because it’s a subject I’m interested in exploring in my own artwork. I appreciated the detail that went into these scenes with the various buildings and vehicles. It would be easy for a frame like this to get really busy but the balance was done well. I also enjoyed how the characters were drawn. I found the hair on the main character to be interesting, it’s not a style that I’ve seen often and I really liked how it added to his persona.

As much as I enjoyed the artwork, the story left me feeling a little lost. For quite a while I couldn’t really figure out what was going on and when I did it just wasn’t that interesting to me. It got a little better toward the end of the book and I did find myself smiling, especially in the last few pages. That said, there were quite a few gaps in the story that were just confusing. I wanted to know more about his past and what brought him to New York. This is talked about but it felt sort of disjointed with information being given in little bits and pieces.

Overall, I really enjoyed the artwork but am sort of ambivalent about the story. It wasn’t bad but it didn’t draw me in either. I never really became engaged with the character and his emotions so it didn’t have much impact on me. Even though I didn’t connect with the story, it’s still worth grabbing if you happen to come across it, if just for the artwork.

Review: I See You by Clare Mackintosh

I See You
by Clare Mackintosh

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Source: ARC from NetGalleyBerkley Publishing Group

Synopsis:

You do the same thing every day.

You know exactly where you’re going.

You’re not alone.

When Zoe Walker sees her photo in the classifieds section of a London newspaper, she is determined to find out why it’s there. There’s no explanation: just a website, a grainy image, and a phone number. She takes it home to her family, who are convinced it’s just someone who looks like Zoe. But the next day the advert shows a photo of a different woman, and another the day after that.

Is it a mistake? A coincidence? Or is someone keeping track of every move they make.

My Review:

3.5 of 5 Stars

It took me a long time to get into this story for a few different reasons. First, the story progresses by going through alternating perspectives. In the first few chapters, this was more confusing than helpful. It’s not clear how the two separate story lines have anything to do with each other at first. It also didn’t help that I had trouble connecting with the characters. This was especially true with Zoe Walker who annoyed me greatly. I felt for her circumstances but found myself growing frustrated not only with her thought process but also many of her behaviors. I hated the way she treated her family and live in boyfriend.

I connected a little more with Kelly but found myself actually growing angry with her based on her interactions with her twin sister. While her personality is vastly different from Zoe’s, she also made a series of decisions that were frustrating. What I found even more irritating was how little repercussion she seemed to really have based on these poor decisions. As an example, she chooses to disclose certain information at a critical point in the investigation which is in direct opposition to a direct order from the lead detective on the case. Sure, she’s lectured, but it comes off more as a slap on the wrist and nothing else really comes of it. It’s not that it isn’t possible but it wasn’t the only example of her sort of ‘getting away’ with doing her own thing.

As you can tell I had a lot of issues with the story but somehow they all seemed to evaporate once I got into the last fourth of the book. I went from being sort of annoyed with the characters to being glued to the pages, devouring the final few chapters. I had a few ideas of who ‘the bad guy’ could be but then was really surprised. I was able to guess a few of the other details and twists but was still left in shock with the final chapter. The story does wrap up but the end has a wide opening that leaves plenty of room for a possible sequel.

Overall, a decent mystery with a dash of thriller and suspense there at the end. While this book didn’t bother me all that much, I have to mention that it does include themes surrounding sexual assault, murder, and other victimization of women. None of these are portrayed graphically in any way but if you are sensitive to these topics you might want to take caution with this title.

Review: These Ruthless Deeds by Tarun Shanker, Kelly Zekas

These Ruthless Deeds
by Tarun Shanker, Kelly Zekas

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Source: Digital ARC from Netgalley

Synopsis:

England, 1883. Still recovering from a devastating loss, Evelyn is determined to use her powers to save other gifted people from those who would harm them. But when her rescue of a young telekinetic girl goes terribly wrong, Evelyn finds herself indebted to a secret society devoted to recruiting and protecting people like Evelyn and her friends.

As she follows the Society’s orders, healing the sick and embarking on perilous recruitment missions, Evelyn sees her problems disappear. Her reputation is repaired, her friends are provided for, and her parents are newly wealthy. She reunites with the dashing Mr. Kent and recovers the reclusive Mr. Braddock (who has much less to brood over now that the Society can help him to control his dangerous power). But Evelyn can’t help fearing the Society is more sinister than it appears…

My Review:

4 of 5 Stars

I was eager to read this book after having finished the first in the series. I was instantly swept up in the continuing story along with Evelyn and her new friends. She still drove me crazy on a number of occasions but I also was able to appreciate seeing her grow as a person. Much like the first book I’m still on the fence about the strange love triangle that is going on. I don’t know which guy to pick. I adore Mr. Braddock but find his behavior, while understandable, extremely irritating. I’m quite tired of him running away repeatedly. This is a big draw for me to Mr. Kent, that said it doesn’t seem that Evelyn is as ‘in love’ (lust?) with him. She has an almost insta-love type attraction for one and a longer and deeper friendship with the other. Sadly, this book doesn’t really give us any solutions to the romantic side of the story. Thankfully, though it is a feature that impacts the ongoing drama, it’s hardly a key feature.

Aside from the side romance, this book really shocked me. There are a number of twists that I had absolutely no clue were coming and left with me a dropped jaw. I’m still reeling after the events toward the end. It’s hard to talk about without giving away spoilers but it had me gasping. I may have even shouted at one point because I was so floored. I went through an entire range of emotions and still am a few days after setting the book down. It’s not a cliff hanger ending but it is open and rather painful. This is only more so by the fact that the third book doesn’t even have a title listed on Goodreads or a more specific release date beyond sometime in 2018.

I’m mixed on recommending this. I’m really enjoying the series but if you are anything like me, it might be better to wait until the entire series is released before diving in. That said, it’s a great read that’s different than most historical fiction that I’ve tried. I love the fantasy elements mixed in with high society. Fans of fantasy that wish to dip their toes into a new genre will have luck with this series. I also suspect that fans of historical fiction who want to try a lighter more realistic type of fantasy will also enjoy this series.

Review: I Feel Bad: All Day. Every Day. about Everything. by Orli Auslander

i-feel-badI Feel Bad: All Day. Every Day. about Everything.
by Orli Auslander

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Synopsis:

In a series of 100 illustrations with accompanying text, Orli Auslander has captured a mood and emotional ambivalence that will be all too familiar for readers: trying to be the best wife, mother, and friend she can be, while simultaneously feeling shitty about virtually everything she does. Confronting her daily experience with dark humor and brilliant and brutal honesty, she shows us how being an overindulgent mother makes her feel as terrible as the times when she can’t stand the sight of her kids; how saying yes to the wrong experiences and no to the right requests is equally bad; how her Jewish heritage complicates her relationships with her overly religious family and irreligious children; and how having a vagina is the ultimate inescapable struggle. With a distinctive, textured ink drawing style which brings to mind a female Robert Crumb and a neurotic Edward Gorey, I Feel Bad is a book that readers will buy for themselves and for a best friend, and where every reader will find the precise moment that Auslander voiced their own deepest anxiety in her poignant and hilarious illustrations.

My Review:

3.5 of 5 Stars

I liked the concept behind this book more than the book itself. The artwork itself was done in a messy sketchy style. This organic feel to the drawing combined with some of the very personal sharing made me feel like I was getting a glimpse in someone’s diary. I like the concept of writing down and giving voice to all of the things that garbage that floats around in my head. By getting it all out on paper I can see how that could lessen the voice in daily life and be fairly healing in the long run.

I appreciated this book from a therapeutic sense and could even relate to a number of the drawings. That said, at times it made me a little uncomfortable. I’ve read much more graphic memoirs before and didn’t mind them. This felt almost more revealing than some tell-all books because of there isn’t really a story. It’s random things she feels bad about that vary in nature. I liked the open, honest, and blunt nature but at the same time was a little put off by the random sex that seemed thrown into the book.

Overall I think this is a great tool for expression and I’m glad the author has been able to share her work on a wider scale. This is a great technique to use to quiet your inner critic or judge. I do recommend giving it a try if only for the value that it might add to your own life if you decide to try a similar method of journaling your thoughts.

Big thanks to Blue Rider Press and NetGalley for providing me with a free ARC of this graphic novel in exchange for my honest review.

Review: Waking Gods by Sylvain Neuvel

Waking Gods (Themis Files #2)
by Sylvain Neuvel

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Source: ARC from Netgalley

Synopsis:

As a child, Rose Franklin made an astonishing discovery: a giant metallic hand, buried deep within the earth. As an adult, she’s dedicated her brilliant scientific career to solving the mystery that began that fateful day: Why was a titanic robot of unknown origin buried in pieces around the world? Years of investigation have produced intriguing answers—and even more perplexing questions. But the truth is closer than ever before when a second robot, more massive than the first, materializes and lashes out with deadly force.

Now humankind faces a nightmare invasion scenario made real, as more colossal machines touch down across the globe. But Rose and her team at the Earth Defense Corps refuse to surrender. They can turn the tide if they can unlock the last secrets of an advanced alien technology. The greatest weapon humanity wields is knowledge in a do-or-die battle to inherit the Earth . . . and maybe even the stars.

My Review:

4 of 5 Stars

I was hesitant going into this book, the second in what I believe will be a trilogy. I had really enjoyed the first book but I hadn’t loved it. My biggest issue with the first book is that I hadn’t connected with any specific character. I’m accustomed to having some sort of main character to bond with and follow on a journey. The Themis Files series is much more devoted to the plot than character and is told in a completely different format. Instead of chapters, the entire book is portrayed through interview logs, diaries, and other documentation. It’s a big adjustment compared to what I’m used to reading and with this second book I almost gave up at the beginning. I’m super glad I didn’t, I actually ended up enjoying this book far more than the first.

In the first book, I didn’t really connect with any specific character and I didn’t in this one either. That said, I felt close to them in a way that I didn’t anticipate or even realize until things began happening. I thought I was fairly distant from each individual but in one scene, in particular, I found myself actually crying. I’m still kind of in shock over how things happened days after finishing the book. The many twists this book takes had my feelings all over the place and left me in a bit of a book hangover. My only warning with this book is that the ending is a bit of a cliffhanger, one that I didn’t see coming at all. Most of the situations that go on throughout this second book of the series do get resolved and wrapped up. The final chapter, however, deals a solid blow leaving a lot of clues as to where the next book will take us.

I’ve spoken to a few people about this series who’ve been reluctant to read Waking Gods after having lukewarm feelings about the first book. I totally get that because, in some ways, I had the same reservations. After having read it, however, I highly recommend giving it a try as I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Review: You Are Free: Be Who You Already Are by Rebekah Lyons

You Are Free: Be Who You Already Are
by Rebekah Lyons

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Source: BookLookBloggers

Synopsis:

Have you bought the lie? Many of us do. We measure our worth by what others think of us. We compare and strive, existing mostly for the approval of others. Pressure rises, anxiety creeps in and we hustle to keep up.
Jesus whispers, I gave my life to set you free. I gave you purpose. I called you to live in freedom in that purpose. Yet we still hobble through life, afraid to confess all the ways we push against this truth, because we can’t even believe it. We continue to grasp for the approval of anyone that will offer it: whether strangers, friends, or community.
Christ doesn’t say you can be or may be or will be free. He says you are free.
Dare you believe it?

My Review:

3.5 of 5 Stars

I’m sort of on the fence with this book. I really liked it but frequently had a difficult time relating the concepts talked about to my own life. The author certainly has had many struggles in her life but I found them to be vastly different than my own. I enjoyed reading about her life and how she’s found peace in different seasons and how this related to her faith. I think the biggest thing that held me back is how obvious her passion was for God and a true relationship with Him. It seemed she’d had this for a long time and even grew up in a setting which supported that. I find myself wanting that but my own experiences have been vastly different.

I was still able to take quite a bit away from the book even though I had trouble connecting it to my own walk with religion and faith. A big element in this book was walking in God’s purpose for us. I’m not sure why but I’ve always felt uncomfortable when I sit in a group of Christians talking about how God is ‘using us’ for his great plans. In a way, I can see it as an honor to be chosen or nudged in a certain direction. At the same time, it feels off and leaves me wondering if God truly loves me or if God just appreciates what I might be able to do for Him.

I’ve walked away with quite a bit to think about and consider. Even though this wasn’t quite the book for me I still really enjoyed it. The format would be great for a small group with each chapter featuring a set of discussion questions. I do think there is a wide audience of people, especially women, who would get a lot more out of this than I did.

Review: Perfect by Cecelia Ahern

Perfect (Flawed #2)
by Cecelia Ahern

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Source: ARC from Netgalley 

Synopsis:

Celestine North lives in a society that demands perfection. After she was branded Flawed by a morality court, Celestine’s life has completely fractured–all her freedoms gone.

Since Judge Crevan has declared her the number one threat to the public, she has been a ghost, on the run with Carrick–the only person she can trust.

But Celestine has a secret–one that could bring the entire Flawed system crumbling to the ground. A secret that has already caused countless people to go missing.

Judge Crevan is gaining the upper hand, and time is running out for Celestine. With tensions building, Celestine must make a choice: save just herself or to risk her life to save all Flawed people.

And, most important of all, can she prove that to be human in itself is to be Flawed?

My Review:

4 of 5 Stars

I had a mixture of emotions going into this book. I had really enjoyed Flawed and was somewhat skeptical about how the story might continue. I worried this book might be slow or go in a direction that I didn’t find as interesting. I’m happy to say that I was pleasantly surprised. I continued to get to know Celestine as she grew according to the circumstances around her. I enjoyed this but what I enjoyed, even more, was getting more time with Carrick. I admit I’ve got a bit of a book crush on the guy. I love how pure his motives are. He seems to be one of the few without some hidden agenda. I also appreciate that he frequently fumbles around and makes mistakes. He’s strong, brave, and courageous but he’s not a knight in shining armor come to save the day.

I was a little worried that this book would be slow and I’m happy to say that it definitely isn’t. There are a few sections where things slow down a little but for the most part, the pace is consistent. There were a few things that kind of annoyed me, like the location of the media file given to Celestine. I had guessed its location in the first book but they took so long in actually finding it that I began to doubt myself. I didn’t see all of the twists coming exactly the way they happened but I did know many. While much of the book felt a little predictable it was still entertaining, and the ending really blew me away. The final twist that happens had me gasping in delight and scaring the living daylights out of my dog who happened to be in my lap.

Overall, I really recommend these two books if you enjoy young adult dystopian novels. There is romance in the story but it’s balanced well so that it doesn’t completely take over and adds just a little extra. I suspect that even those who are burned out on this swamped genre might still enjoy this series and the different spin it takes. Book clubs will also find plenty to discuss in both books of the series.

Graphic Novel Review: Harbinger Renegade, Volume 1

Harbinger Renegade, Volume 1: The Judgment of Solomon 
by Rafer Roberts (Writer), Darick Robertson (Artist), Juan José Ryp (Artist)

Goodreads | Amazon | B&N

Source: Netgalley, Diamond Comic Distributors

Synopsis:

Anyone you know could become a Psionically Powered “Harbinger.” Your Neighbor. Your Boss. Your Best Friend. Your Kids.
Six months ago, a secret team of renegade whistleblowers leaked the existence of these extraordinarily dangerous individuals to a stunned world. Today, all across the country, crude, DIY psiot activation attempts have left hundreds brain-damaged…or worse. The emergence of a new psiot in a community often leads to riots and mass violence. America is terrified of what could happen next.
Now, Kris Hathaway, John “Torque” Torkelson, Faith “Zephyr” Herbert, and Peter Stanchek are about to discover their calling. Together, the Harbinger Renegade are moving from town to town, building their ranks, and subverting authority one mind at a time…and setting out to prove once and for all that behind their power, there has always been a purpose.

My Review:

4 of 5 Stars

I didn’t know a lot about this series before jumping into this graphic novel which left me a little confused at first. I quickly got over that however and am now very curious to find out more about the series as a whole. I wasn’t instantly drawn to the art style but the composition was easy to understand and each page flowed really smoothly. The artwork felt crisp and amplified the ongoing story.

I’m a huge fan of shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D and Alphas, so I’m always drawn to any kind of stories that include hidden abilities in everyday people. I really liked this take on something I’ve seen before. While I didn’t have a lot of back story, I felt like I was able to get to know enough about each characters without it. My favorite aspect of this graphic novel was the amount of diversity that it included, especially in the character Faith.

Overall, if you are a fan of superhero stories of any kind you’ll most likely enjoy this graphic novel. I’m looking forward to exploring more of the series and finding out all of the backstory.