#WeNeedDiverseBooks, Comics, Respond to Reading, Responding to Reading

Responding to Reading: The Comics Edition

My comic book collection is rapidly expanding at the moment; partly as my other half treated me for my birthday, and partly because there’s something about the marriage of images and words that appeals to me.

I’m a little bit addicted to Image comics at the moment.  I fell across them because they publish The Wicked + The Divine by Jamie McKelvie and Kieron Gillen (of Young Avengers:  Marvel NOW! and Phonogram fame).

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WicDiv (as it’s affectionately referred to by its fans) encapsulates pretty much everything I love about adaptation and appropriation.  Being more than a little obsessed by literature that rewrites mythos and classic stories, it suits me perfectly with embodiments of gods ranging from Baal to The Morrigan to Lucifer.

It’s set in London, has an incredibly diverse cast (as befits any work set in the capital) and examines the relationship between music and godhead, even going so far as to draw a parallel between celebrity and worship in a way that I haven’t seen done so well since Neil Gaiman’s American Gods.

From there I’ve expanded out, exploring other comics published by Image.

Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona StaplesSaga is one of these.

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The first thing to say, is that Saga is not for the faint of heart.  The word “shit” appears in the very first panel and it deals with and illustrates pretty vividly violence and sex.  It’s also one of the most beautifully illustrated comics that I’ve seen in a very long time.

Image characterises the series as:  “an epic space opera/fantasy comic book series… [that] depicts two lovers from long-warring extraterrestrial races, Alana and Marko, fleeing authorities from both sides of a galactic war as they struggle to care for their newborn daughter, Hazel, who occasionally narrates the series”.

It’s moving, funny and complex with a sprawling narrative that’s tightly woven, despite its expanse.  I’m particularly in love with the depiction of novels in the series as redemptive, with A Night Time Smoke in particular being partly responsible for the bridge between the two protagonists.

I’m also a big fan of Rat Queens by Kurtis J. Wiebe.

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Described by Wiebe as “a love letter to my years of D&D”, it plays with traditional characters with the gang of the Rat Queens comprising of a mage, cleric, fighter and thief – but each character has a twist.  The cleric is an atheist, the thief a hippy hobbit, the fighter a hipster and the mage an elf with a taste for all things rockabilly.

It’s incredibly funny and satirical, poking loving fun at tropes and storylines in a way that makes the reader complicit in its laughter.  The third volume’s just been released and I’ve already got it ordered!

And finally, I’m stepping away from Image to talk about Freakangels, the online lovechild of Warren Ellis and Paul Duffield.

freakangels

“23 years ago, twelve strange children were born in England at exactly the same moment.  6 years ago, the world ended.  This is the story of what happened next.”

Freakangels is an online webcomic that was serialised from 2008 to 2011 and is still available to read online (although you can also buy the very nice trade paperback editions).  Post-apocalyptic, it follows the twelve eponymous Freakangels, working backwards and then forwards to show us what happened and what is happening in the the Whitechapel of this new London.

Mind-blowingly good, it’s definitely worth a read.

So, those are the comics that I’ve been reading of late, but I’m always looking for new recs, so feel free to fling some my way in the comments!

Reading, Release Post, Respond to Reading, Responding to Reading

Respond to Reading: See Me

This is the first stop on the blog tour for Nicholas Sparks‘ See Me, and I’ve got a signed copy to #GIVEAWAY!  Details are at the end of the review.

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I’m a big fan of catharsis.

There’s something innately satisfying about reading a book or watching a film that wrenches your heart out of your chest, stomps on it a little bit, and then shoves it back in, leaving you with an indelible ache that you can’t quite put into words.

And that’s pretty much how I feel about anything that’s got Nicholas Sparks at its core.

You read Sparks for his ability to capture intense emotional connection, and See Me, his first book in about two years, didn’t disappoint.

At its heart are two characters who are in the middle of starting again. Colin Hancock has a history of violence and is finally at college, studying to be a teacher. He’s stoic and bluntly honest in a way that’s sometimes a little shocking, but I suppose what I like best about Colin is his role as a second chance character.

Second chance characters have made huge mistakes in their past, but have turned (or are in the process of turning) their life around. The flaw that often rears its ugly head with these kind of characters, is how that process of starting again is portrayed; it`s all too easy to have a turning point after which everything falls easily into place. Life is never that simple.

Needless to say, Sparks doesn’t fall into this trap. Colin’s blunt honesty can be attributed to the fact that he has to be honest with himself at all times, as that helps him stay grounded.

He’s also got a support network in his friend Evan, and Evan’s fiancee Lily, but we rarely see his family due to their strained relationship. And most importantly, Colin doesn’t find this easy. He has strategies in place, things he does to keep himself out of trouble, but his instincts are darker than most people’s and that’s captured with sensitivity.

Maria Sanchez, our heroine, has led a pretty sheltered life and so when she asks Colin about his past, and why he’s at college so late, he tells her with some of that blunt honesty. Sparks doesn’t shy away from the fact that there are differences between the main couple; their instincts are quintessentially different, and their backgrounds even more so. But opposites attract and there’s a gentleness to their burgeoning relationship.

All of this is set against the backdrop of suspense and fear. As the narrative unfolds, we find out more and more about why Maria left her previous job and has returned to her hometown, and it soon appears that something or someone may be watching her.

Romance suspense can be hard to get right, and Sparks perfectly balances the love story and the development of Colin and Maria’s feelings for each other with a thriller-esque plot that unfolds at the perfect pace.

There is, of course, a fair amount of heartache and conflict, but I fell in love with these characters, this setting and I’m entirely convinced that this book assays any misconceptions people may have about love stories not being well-written. Utterly gorgeous.

Now, I’m lucky enough to have a signed copy of See Me for a giveaway! So leave a comment about your favourite Nicholas Sparks book, and I will choose one commenter at random on Friday morning.

Exploits of a Chick Lit Aficionado, Reading, Respond to Reading, Responding to Reading, Tule Publishing

Respond to Reading: Claimed by the Warrior

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I first discovered Joss Wood with the launch of Modern Tempted (or KISS, as it was called in the US), back in August 2013. My review of that novel, If You Can’t Stand the Heat, was accompanied by a Mills & Boon boy (one of my male friends caroused into posing with the book) and so a love affair began.

I love Joss’ writing, which is one of the reasons why she’s an autobuy author for me. Her characters have heart and sass and there are plot twists which I love.

Claimed by the Warrior is no exception.

It’s got a typically Wood-ian hero in Jed Hamilton (yes, I`m making that a thing): a man who is strong and fiercely independent, who doesn’t usually rely on anybody else. I’m a sucker for these heroes, partly because my own fiance’s incredibly similar. There’s something swoonworthy about someone who won’t open up to anyone but the heroine; it helps create a special bond between the characters that is impossible for either of them to deny forever, however much they may want to.

And to go along with this (rather delicious) hero is McKenna Dixon. I love the way that she interacts with Jed, calling him out when he unintentionally upsets his little sister`s wedding dress shopping and standing up to him when she doesn’t think he’s being upfront with her.

The chemistry between the two of them is sizzling from the outset, with a particularly steamy scene at a restaurant standing out, but the thing that’s most apparent to both the reader and the characters, is that there’s genuine tenderness and affection amidst the heat.

In addition to all this, there’s a thriller-esque element to the story, with Jed stepping up when he realises that McKenna has a stalker, and the eventual revelation at the end came as a bit of a surprise (in a good way – I like that writers can still surprise me sometimes). Romantic suspense is a sub-genre of romance that I’m beginning to enjoy more and more, so I was delighted t see this kind of writing from Joss.

All in all, a delightful read, with Wood’s strong characterisation once more at the forefront of a darn good read.