“Mer” Graphic Novel Review

Mer
Photo from Goodreads

General

Mer by Joelle Sellner

Pages: 128 (paperback)

Published: Diamond Book Distributors (April 19th 2017)

Genre: Graphic Novel, Fantasy, Mermaids

 

Links: Goodreads/Amazon

Overall rating: 2.5/5

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from Netgalley, but that does not have a sway in my reviews. I am a human being with thoughts of her own, and I am not obligated to automatically give this book five stars.

 

The Review

Mer is Twilight meets Atlantis/Mermaid fantasy. The story follows an awkward and troubled girl named Aryn and her family’s move to a new town in Connecticut for a fresh start. Like Twilight, this story is filled with teenage angst, shirtless leading men, and female rivalry.

There is so much and so little to say about this graphic novel. The fact that it is marketed as a Twilight-esqe novel seems a bit odd. Why not market it for what it is: A young adult romance between a merman and human. Why does it need to be qualified with Stephanie Meyer’s vampire fantasy? The artwork is lovely and the story is fair, so why compare it to someone else’s work? Let this work stand for itself.

Overall, it has a good premise, but the execution fell flat. It could be because the white, damsel in distress protagonist saved by the fantasmal beast narrative has been overdone, but it can also be due to the fact that this story was treated like a Twilight fanfic. Either way, Mer was a visually appealing novel, but it isn’t the kind of graphic novel I would read again.

 

 

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“How To Party With an Infant” Book Review

How To Party
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General

How to Party with an Infant by Kaui Hart Hemmings

Pages: 240 (Hardcover)

Published: by Simon & Schuster August 9th, 2016

Genre: Fiction, Contemporary, Parenting

 

Links: Goodreads/Amazon

Overall Rating: 3/5

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from Netgalley, but that does not have a sway in my reviews. I am a human being with thoughts of her own, and I am not obligated to automatically give this book five stars.

 

The Review

“Don’t judge me,” Annie says, but Mele says something that makes her feel better. “Why not?” Mele says. “It’s what moms do. And it’s okay.”

When I began my journey with this book, I wondered, ‘What is this story about?’ Is it about Mele and her daughter? Is it about Mele and the cookbook she’s making? Is it about relationships and Mele’s growth as a mother? All of these scenarios somehow make it into the book, but the point that stood out was the idea that there are several methodologies in parenting; it seems regardless, parents will judge other parents if they don’t follow the same methods in child rearing.

The story, while entertaining, overused the ‘me versus them’ narrative. Mele, the single, unemployed, mother who is receiving help from her parents back in Hawaii uses her cookbook/blog platform and her San Francisco Mommy Club as a means to observe and criticize the upper-class citizens living in the Bay Side Area. This is all Mele contributes. She plays a victim in her story. Mele doesn’t mind handing out criticism, but she doesn’t favor receiving it.

It is disappointing to read a text that is flat but humorous. Hemmings is a witty author and the words she writes on the page are brilliant, but what didn’t work was the lack of characterization in her leading characters. Though they were intellectual and their banter was hilarious, these characters such as Mele and Annie stayed static. Ending this review, I have to ask, should main characters be dynamic in the sense that they experience change?

“Emily” Book Review

19223254
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General

Emily  by Novala Takemoto, Misa Dikengil Lindberg (Translator)

Pages: N/A

Published: Shueisha English Edition

Genre: Adult, Contemporary, Lolita, Japanese

 

Link(s): Goodreads

Overall Rating: 1/5

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley, but that does not have a sway in my reviews. I am a human being with thoughts of her own, and I am not obligated to automatically give this book five stars.

The Review

The collection of stories Takemoto shares is both tragic and disappointing in the sense that they lack empathy. As a reader, I found this book difficult to read due to the harshness in tone and the little care placed on the page.

Words hold meaning.

I think if she had died from an illness or an accident, I might have become a little sentimental. But she committed suicide. She was the one who wanted to die, who chose death. Just as someone who wants to travel to Bali boards a plane and goes there, and just as someone who wants to eat Korean barbecue beef steps into a Korean barbecue restaurant, Kimiko died as she wanted.

The author compared suicide to choosing to eat barbecue. That is sick and twisted. As an artist, Takemoto has free reign to do whatever he wants to do with his art, but because his art is public, I as a reader have every right to find it distasteful and unsatisfying.

Due to the content, I cannot recommend reading this piece. It is triggering in the sense that it makes suicide acceptable. It may not be the main focus of the book but as a reader, I can’t stop thinking about that one section and that is deeply problematic.

Breaking Up Is Hard To Do… Review

Breaking Up Is Hard

General

Breaking Up Is Hard To Do… But You Could’ve Done Better by Hilary Fitgerald Campbell

Pages: 150 (Paperback)

Genre: Nonfiction, humor, Graphic novel

Publisher: Animal Media Group LLC, Published January 10th 2017

 

Links: Goodreads/Amazon

Overall Rating: 3/5 stars

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book, but that does not have a sway in my reviews. I am a human being with thoughts of her own, and I am not obligated to automatically give this book five stars.

 


Potential Submission

Juicy breakups inspire great art, so here’s a story I’d like to share:

It was the middle of February, on a cold Friday night. We were outside a crowded pizza joint deciding whether to buy a couple of slices. Unfortunately, it was cash only and I didn’t have a dollar on me, so you said you’d pay for the pizza and I could pay you back later. Jokingly, I replied, “I mean… I paid for our last meal.”

You scowled, took a step back. Said I was holding you “emotionally hostage.” Maybe I shouldn’t have brought up our last meal because your pride as a man was too frail, too fragile to handle being called out for lacking the funds to fulfill a role our society placed on you, but you had never told me I owed you anything before. I thought we were at a point where we didn’t have to feel indebted to one another when it came to food, dates, love. Obviously, I was wrong, because that was the last time I saw you.

 

The Review

Breaking Up Is Hard To Do… But You Could’ve Done Better is a collection of real-life stories that depict the dark yet humorous side of breakups. From the green floppy disc with, “Reasons I think you’re a bitch” to the red-headed girl wearing an ex-lover’s Nasa t-shirt, Campbell illustrates failed relationships through vibrant colors and cartoon.

Although certain stories are humorous like the sushi versus muffin story on page 44, many of the short stories were lacking as written pieces. For example, on page 79 it reads, “He broke up with me on the car ride home, when I picked him up from the airport after Thanksgiving. You’re not welcome, by the way.”

As an avid reader I have to ask, is this story necessary for this book or would it have been better as an Instagram post? The ending wasn’t strong. Like many of the endings, it was bitter, but it didn’t have a punchline or a moment of finality. Sadly, most of the short pieces left that kind of impression.

Regardless, I found the rest of the stories and illustrations to be both cringe-worthy and enjoyable. If anything, this is the kind of book I would read when I need a break from life. It’s the kind of book I would read on a Saturday evening when all I want to do is drink wine and eat chocolate. It’s indulgent in the sense that it makes me think ‘and I thought I had it bad.’ It also makes me think, ‘thank God I don’t have it that bad.’ This book may not be worthy of five stars due to its lack of literary prowess, but it is a book that I would read again.

 

Thank you to Autumn VanGunten for gracing me with this book. And Thank you to the author for creating it.

“The Vegetarian” Book Review

The Vegetarian
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General

The Vegetarian by Han Kang, Translated by Deborah Smith

Pages: 192 (Hardcover)

Published: by Hogarth February 2nd 2016 (first published October 30th 2007)

Links: Goodreads/Amazon

Overall Rating: 4/5

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from Blogging for Books, but that does not have a sway in my reviews. I am a human being with thoughts of her own, and I am not obligated to automatically give this book five stars.

The Review

On Amazon and many other review sites, this novella received three and a half stars out of five. This was shocking because I thought this book was well written in terms of language, imagery, craft, and content. From the reviews, many people disputed the changing of points of view, the language, and the pacing. As a reader, the changing of point of views did not bother me because it was necessary to understand the deterioration of Yeong-Hye’s mind. The first point of view is written from a shallow mind that assesses mental illness as “strange” and “unknowable.” The second point of view romanticizes mental illness, while the last point of view strives to understand and empathize with the struggles of mental illness. The idea of breaking this novella into three parts works because it shows the different societal views of an invisible illness.
In terms of language, I would like to note that this book was translated from Korean to English. Because of it being a translated work, it’s bound to read differently. I noticed the use of terms and phrases that aren’t typically used in contemporary English and as a reader, I had to remind myself that this was a translation and that these terms and phrases are probably used more often in Korean or the meaning of these words have been lost in translation. I wouldn’t judge this book because of the language. With any translated piece, there will be differences and stumbling blocks but as readers, we should keep in mind that difference in language should not keep us from reading a book.
The last point that most people seemed to focus on was the pacing. Maybe I’m just a fast reader, but I finished this book in less than two days. I can see that the pacing changes with each section, but the pacing mirrors the weight each character carries. The first section was fast and easy to read, but the narrator was shallow and his views on mental illness were narrow. The second section wasn’t necessarily a slow read, but it wasn’t as fast as the first section. This could be due to the commentary being told in this section. It romanticizes mental illness and it goes more in depth of the beauty of pain. The last section wasn’t necessarily a fast read, but that’s more so because the content was heavier and it focused on empathizing with mental illness and truly understanding how the mind works. It is easy to say that the pacing “was slow,” but the pacing truly mirrored the transitions between societal views that are focused in the novella.
What truly captured my attention was the cultural telling embedded. South Korea is well known for their views on body image, and it was interesting to see the differences between their culture and American culture. In America, body shaming is less acceptable and the idea of being true to yourself and loving yourself is a topic that is taught through media and everyday life. In the novella, it comments on the perspective that women should look a certain way. Women should always wear makeup, should always wear bras when in public, and should always be demure and submissive. These concepts contrast with most American ideals, so it is interesting to see how this book shows how breaking away from a society that shames the body can be both freeing and detrimental.
The Vegetarian is a beautiful novella that elicits the pain of living in a society that judges a person based off of looks and personality. This book was written well and I truly believe that it deserves more than three and a half stars. If anything, it deserves a full four stars. This story was so unsettling and it showed how cultures can clash and how societal views can be detrimental to those who struggle with mental illness. Do not be fooled by the low ratings on Amazon and read this book. It is truly worth the read.

“For Today I Am A Boy” Book Review

For Today I Am
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General

 

For Today I Am A Boy by Kim Fu

Pages: 256 (Hardcover)

Genre: Fiction, Queer

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (first published 2014)

 

Links: Goodreads/Amazon

Overall Rating: 4/5

Source: Purchased w/ own money

The Review:

Kim Fu’s debut novel For Today I Am A Boy is a poignant story that differs from most Asian American literature. It explores masculinity and the transgendered narrative. This work of fiction was a compelling read. Jam-packed with heavy imagery and beautiful language, I  somehow ended up finishing this book in one sitting, absorbing all the wonders it had to offer. If anything, Fu did an excellent job at drawing my attention and creating a story worthy of engagement.

 

In summary, this novel is about a fictional character named Peter Huang and his journey of fulfilling his immigrant father’s dreams of American masculinity. The setting of the story takes place in different settings such as California, Berlin, and Montreal, but the main point of interest is Peter’s hometown, Ontario, Canada.  Although the subject matter becomes a commentary on western masculinity, I found the writing darkly humorous and incredibly powerful. Fu creates many characters that face the struggles of sexuality in a way that is not only relatable to Asian Americans, but to all people. That I believe is what you call empathy.

 

Masculinity is important in terms of identity for Asian males. The men tend to be the head of the household, so the fact that this story diverts from the typical westernized perspective of machismo culture shows how pivotal it is. It breaks down the idea that men have to be tough and controlling, and it explores the concept of choosing feminity over masculinity. It is worth noting that LGBTQ experiences are still considered taboo in many Asian cultures, so the fact that Fu is able to write about it so bravely is a feat in itself.

Although this book isn’t something I would recommend to my conservative Christian mother, I do believe that it is a novel worthy of discussion. I may not be knowledgeable when it comes to LGBTQ experiences, but I believe that this book offers a valuable perspective and a valid experience. Even if you’re not inclined to read Asian American literature or inclined to read about transgender experiences, I strongly recommend reading this novel because the literature itself is exquisite and it will leave you gasping for air.