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Back to School Reading List | Autumn 2017

As I’m writing this, I have one week until I go back to sixth form, and when this post publishes, it’ll be one day (aaaahhh!) I’m sort of dreading starting year 13, especially after a really great summer. I’ve done so many cool things but now I’m preparing to return to a non-existent social life and even more academic pressure than I’ve ever had before.

Sooo, how am I gonna cope with that? BOOKS!

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This blog post is a list of all of the books I hope to read in the (little) free time I have during my first school term.

Disclaimer: I will probably not read all of these books during my first term back. I’m going to be so busy. But the IDEA of reading them is comforting to me, so this post is still valid, right? Without further ado, here’s the five books I’d like to read:

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Haddon Hall: Where David Invented Bowie by Néjib

My dad picked up a copy of this graphic novel, but I had to steal it from him! It’s a portrait of David Bowie’s life, right at the start of his career, documenting his time in Haddon Hall. I’m local to Beckenham and this place Bowie used to live, so I thought it would be a really interesting read. The cover is so vibrant!

Awkward and Definition: The High School Chronicles by Ariel Schrag

I purchased Likewise, another graphic novel by Schrag, before realising I didn’t own the precious books in the series. This graphic novel collects the first two memoirs she wrote, whilst still in high school. I’ve read so many fantastic reviews of this relatable and quirky memoir series, so I’m really eager to start it. And what better time to read it than my last year at school?

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Hollow City by Ransom Riggs

adored Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, the original book and the film. It’s probably one of my all-time favourite YA books. Despite having first read Miss Peregrine’s a while ago, I’ve never gotten around to its sequel. I’m putting this at the top of my TBR pile as I think it’ll be the perfect book for escapism on study breaks.

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Post Truth: The New War on Truth and How to Fight Back by Matthew D’ancona

One of my new resolutions is to read more non-fiction; more specifically about politics and society. It’s hard to stay away from the news in the current political climate, but so-called “fake news” has become so common that it’s difficult to know when and how to respond. I’m hoping to learn a lot from this!

They Can’t Kill Us All by Wesley Lowery

I’ve read so much about Black Lives Matter, but only in small snippets across social media. I’ve wanted to educate myself more about the situation of police brutality in America, so this book has been on my radar for the past few months. The writer is a journalist, who reported on related events over a number of years. This is going to be a very hard-hitting read, but I know it’ll also give me much more insight into an important movement.


 

So, those are the books I’m planning on reading in Autumn! Have you read any? What’s on your own reading list? Leave a comment 🙂

Book Review · mini reviews

Mini Reviews: Man Up and Queer

My aim this year is to read more non-fiction – I started off the year with two great reads from Icon Books, which were both related to topics I study in school (being a sociology and media student). It’s been a while between reading these and writing about my thoughts, so enjoy these mini reviews!

Man Up by Jack Urwin

Published 2nd June 2016 by Icon Books.

29611402Goodreads Synopsis: Jack Urwin’s father died just before he turned 10. Being male, he never really learned to talk about this with any kind of sincerity. His grief stayed with him through his teens, slowly becoming depression.
Now 24 and a journalist whose recent Vice article A Stiff Upper Lip is Killing British Men – described as ‘fabulous’ by Irvine Welsh – became a viral sensation, Urwin explores what it means to be a man now.
He traces crises of masculinity from our grandfathers’ inability to deal with the horrors of war, to the mob mentality of football terraces or Fight Club, and the disturbing rise of mental health problems among men today.

My Review: Do you ever read something, and even before you’ve finished, you want to yell about it from the rooftops and push it into everyone’s hands? Well, that’s how I was with Man Up. This title is absolutely fantastic.

The social construct of masculinity is something that’s interested me a lot, as someone who is dedicated to discussing issues about gender and equality. It’s very hard to talk about, especially when there’s so much misinformation about the topic, and how it intersects with feminism (heads up: feminism is about gender equality. It requires focus on all genders). This is where Urwin’s book comes in; books like this are rare.

Urwin himself has felt the impact of masculinity; his father suffered in silence with an illness, and the writer himself struggled to cope with this because boys aren’t encouraged to be open about their feelings. Following the writer’s viral VICE article, this book explores gender in great depth, from historical events that have constructed how we view masculinity today, to the issue of male mental health and the alarming rates of men committing suicide. Books like this, topics like this, are more important ever, and I know Man Up will help to open up a conversation about it.

Urwin’s writing is what makes this book so memorable. He writes so clearly about such a complex issue, with a hint of wit sometimes and the right emotions in all the right places. This book is so accessible; it can be read and understood by people without much prior knowledge of the topic of gender, and that’s why I’m so grateful for it. I’ll be recommending this endlessly, in the hopes it encourages readers of all genders to become more engaged in the conversation.

My Rating:

five

Queer: A Graphic History by Meg-John Barker and Julia Scheele

Published 8th September 2016 by Icon Books.

28957268Goodreads Synopsis: From identity politics and gender roles to privilege and exclusion, Queer explores how we came to view sex, gender and sexuality in the ways that we do; how these ideas get tangled up with our culture and our understanding of biology, psychology and sexology; and how these views have been disputed and challenged.
Along the way we look at key landmarks which shift our perspective of what’s ‘normal’ – Alfred Kinsey’s view of sexuality as a spectrum, Judith Butler’s view of gendered behaviour as a performance, the play Wicked, or moments in Casino Royale when we’re invited to view James Bond with the kind of desiring gaze usually directed at female bodies in mainstream media.

My Review: I absolutely adored this! I own a few Graphic Guides on my A Level subjects, and haven’t actually gotten around to them yet – but Queer went to the top of my to-read pile as soon as I knew about it. I’m currently studying sociology, and I’m really interested in learning about sociological theories – queer theory is totally overlooked in my school’s course, which is saddening. I was really excited to use this as some wider reading, and it was such a brilliant read!

It’s so easy to devour this in one sitting, but I think I need to re-read it to fully digest all of the information that’s packed into it. The graphic element of it kept me engaged and interested with every chapter; the illustrations are fantastic, often witty, always useful in providing visuals for theories. Queer explores many key theorists and concepts across history, in great detail, despite sections being quite brief. I didn’t actually realise how fact-heavy this would be, and I’ll admit I didn’t take in as much as I thought I would – but that’s why I’m really looking forward to reading this again. It’s also a fantastic resource for, well, all things queer. I’m excited to use it as a reference in the future, as I’m hoping to write an extended project on queer theory next year.

My Rating:

four

I received both books from the publisher. In no way at all did this affect my thoughts.

 

Book Review

Graphic Novel Review: Alex + Ada Vol. 1 by Jonathan Luna and Sarah Vaughn

Published July 2014 by Image Comics

21823465Goodreads Synopsis: From JONATHAN LUNA (GIRLS, THE SWORD, ULTRA, Spider-Woman: Origin) and SARAH VAUGHN (Sparkshooter) comes ALEX + ADA, a sci-fi drama set in the near future. The last thing in the world Alex wanted was an X5, the latest in realistic androids. But after Ada is dropped into his life, he discovers she is more than just a robot.
Collects ALEX + ADA #1-5.

My Review: This graphic novel was recommended to me on Amazon, after I’d read the likes of The Wicked and the Divine. I fell in love with the simplistic but beautiful cover, and the synopsis made it sound incredibly interesting. It reminded me of a lot of Sci-Fi I know and love, with its classic-feeling near-future-androids-are-becoming-independent vibe, but I was eager to try it out. I’m so glad I did; Alex  + Ada may not be the most original of stories, but it’s told in an incredibly unforgettable way and I adored it.

I’m always a little scared when I start an ongoing comic series, as like with The Wicked and the Divine, I can sometimes get too lost in a complex story. However, with this, I became absolutely absorbed in the story, and it was really easy to follow. Issue one begins with Alex, a relatively normal guy who is quite lonely, and living in a near-future world where many tasks are now performed by androids and robots. All over the news is talk of a Robot Rights movement, and a massacre caused by sentient androids, which is stirring tension. When an X5 android turns up on his doorstep, the newest in lifelike technology, and something he doesn’t desire – he reluctantly boots it up. Soon, he finds himself falling into a complex world of android politics, and discovers that Ada is seemingly more than just an android.

The story feels like an instant classic, and after binging the five issues in this collection, I was really eager to start the next volume. I often feel like the first few issues in a series can be a little dull, just introducing us to characters and story, with lots of yet to be answered questions, but with Alex + Ada, I felt immersed in the story straight away and loved the way everything was executed. I think some people might find it a little dull, as Alex isn’t set up to seem like the most exciting of characters, and his interactions with other characters aren’t that thrilling – but I really loved that! It shows how a lonely guy can become so isolated by the things around him, like the technology that’s running almost his whole life.

The artwork is pretty great. It’s a simplistic style, with a limited blue/grey colour scheme for the most part, but I really liked the way it reflects the sterile, depersonalised feel of the comic’s setting. It would have been nice to see some more variation in the style, but I do think it works with the story really well.

Overall, Alex + Ada was a really enjoyable graphic novel; one I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend whether you’re a fan of Sci-Fi, or looking for a way to get into reading comics, as it’s a very accessible story. These first five issues are captivating and enthralling – and a brilliant set-up for what I’m sure is going to be a brilliant story  in the next instalments. I can’t wait to see what direction the story goes in the next volumes – this first one was a fantastic introduction to a Sci-Fi world that has a lot of promise.

My Rating:

four and a half

I purchased a copy of Alex + Ada Vol. 1 online.

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Book Review: The Wicked + The Divine by Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie & Matthew Wilson

Published 12th November 2014 by Image Comics.

23093359Goodreads Synopsis: Every ninety years, twelve gods incarnate as humans. They are loved. They are hated. In two years, they are dead. The team behind critical tongue-attractors like Young Avengers and PHONOGRAM reunite to create a world where gods are the ultimate pop stars and pop stars are the ultimate gods. But remember: just because you’re immortal, doesn’t mean you’re going to live forever. Collects THE WICKED + THE DIVINE #1-5

My Review: I can’t even begin to describe how excited I was about reading The Wicked + The Divine, when I spotted the first volume in Waterstones! I had been reading a lot of tweets about it on Twitter as the individual issues were released, but had to wait until the volume was published as I missed the first issues. There was so much hype surrounding this! And, of course: Gillen, writer, McKelvie, artist, and Wilson, colorist, are the super team that created Young Avengers – without doubt the best series I read last year.

The concept really intrigued me: Re-incarnated gods… as pop stars? It sounded crazy but inventive (And there are some really interesting ways to look a the concept); I was sold. The Wicked + The Divine had me completed gripped from the opening pages and I read the entire volume in one go (then cried a little a lot).

The plot was such a good crime story, laced with paranormal elements (and some really cool outfits.): Luci is seemingly framed for murder, and locked away in prison, so London student Laura decides to investigate and find the truth, investigating into the somewhat sinister worlds of the re-incarnated gods.

On the mythological side of the story, I think I missed some references; I read on Goodreads that the Gods all relate to different famous legends, which brings a whole new depth to the plot: I’ll have to reread it!

Jamie McKelvie’s illustrations, along with Matt Wilson’s beautiful colouring, were flawless. I loved the artwork in Young Avengers, so I knew I would enjoy the art in this series. The whole comic was drawn so beautifully: I loved how the Gods, particularly, were drawn. The outfits and the hair were SO cool. I will disappointed if I don’t see cosplay… OH WAIT LOOK AT THIS AMATERASU ONE OHMYGOSH.

Overall, The Wicked + The Divine, Vol 1, was definitely as great as I hoped it would be – and worth the wait to read it, too. I’m so excited about reading on in the series soon! I’m sure it will be a future classic. Gillen has crafted a truly individual story that had me completely absorbed, and I can’t even describe how much I loved Jamie McKelvie’s illustration. I’m counting down until Volume two now… because AGHHH THAT ENDING.

My Rating:

four and a half

I purchased a copy of The Wicked + The Divine in a local bookstore.

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Book Review: The Sleeper and the Spindle by Neil Gaiman, Illustrated by Chris Riddell

Published October 23rd 2014 by Bloomsbury.

IMG_2394Goodreads Synopsis: On the eve of her wedding, a young queen sets out to rescue a princess from an enchantment. She casts aside her fine wedding clothes, takes her chain mail and her sword and follows her brave dwarf retainers into the tunnels under the mountain towards the sleeping kingdom. This queen will decide her own future – and the princess who needs rescuing is not quite what she seems. Twisting together the familiar and the new, this perfectly delicious, captivating and darkly funny tale shows its creators at the peak of their talents.

My Review: Chris Riddell and Neil Gaiman are a brilliant storytelling pair – as I knew from reading Fortunately, the Milk, their children’s book. Neil Gaiman’s writing is always gorgeous and Chris Riddell’s illustrations always bring to life his characters in an unforgettable way. Consequently, when I found out about The Sleeper and the Spindle, I was really excited about reading it!

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The book is one of the most beautiful editions I’ve ever come across. The cover made me want to start reading straight away (Which I did!) and the minimalistic colour palette of black, white and gold makes the beautiful illustrations stand out. I fell in love with the look and feel of the book before I’d even started the story! I know it’s a book I’ll treasure.

I’ve been a fan of Chris Riddell’s work for years but I think his illustrations in The Sleeper and the Spindle are my new favourites – especially the two-page spreads and the endpapers! The character depictions are all so beautiful.

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I was aware the story would be a retelling of Sleeping Beauty – but didn’t realise that the clever twists would draw in Snow White too. The only reason I was a little nervous about reading it was that I wasn’t sure how I’d find it because it was a rewritten classic – would it stand out enough? There’s quite a big market in fairy tale re-tellings. I’m not sure why I thought that; Neil Gaiman’s spin on the well-known stories was fantastic, and I didn’t want to pull myself out of the story.

What I loved the most was how the classic story is there, but the stereotypical stock character’s aren’t. There’s no prince charming. Instead, the protagonist is Snow White, who leaves her land, delaying her marriage, to awake the ‘sleeper’ in her castle, while the sleeping plague sweeps over the land. It’s so fresh and different! I really liked the ending too, which left the story at a point that left me wondering about the character’s unwritten futures.

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Overall, The Sleeper and the Spindle definitely lived up to my excitement, though at just under seventy pages I do wish it was a little longer – I fell in love with the story so much. It’s a wonderfully fresh take on Sleeping Beauty – and a clever continuation of Snow White as well! The illustrations that accompanied the writing were gorgeous, and I think they fitted the story perfectly. Definitely recommended – The Sleeper and the Spindle will appeal to readers regardless of age.

My Rating: 

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I received a copy of The Sleeper and the Spindle form the publisher, in exchange for a review. In no way at all did this affect my thoughts.

 

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Graphic Novel Review: The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman & P. Craig Russell

[Original story by Neil Gaiman, adaptation by P Craig Russell & chapters illustrated by Kevin Nowlan, P. Craig Russell, Tony Harris, Scott Hampton, Galen Showman, Jill Thompson, and Stephen B. Scott]

Published 29th July 2014 by Bloomsbury.

18738869Goodreads Synopsis: The first volume of a glorious two-volume, four-color graphic novel adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s #1 New York Times bestselling and Newbery Medal-winning novel The Graveyard Book, adapted by P. Craig Russell and illustrated by an extraordinary team of renowned artists.

Inventive, chilling, and filled with wonder, Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book reaches new heights in this stunning adaptation. Artists Kevin Nowlan, P. Craig Russell, Tony Harris, Scott Hampton, Galen Showman, Jill Thompson, and Stephen B. Scott lend their own signature styles to create an imaginatively diverse and yet cohesive interpretation of Neil Gaiman’s luminous novel.

Volume One contains Chapter One through the Interlude, while Volume Two will include Chapter Six to the end.

[View synopsis for The Graveyard Book here!]

My Review: I’m a really big fan of Neil Gaiman, and especially of his children’s novel, The Graveyard Book – so predictably, I was both incredibly excited and incredibly nervous when I was offered the chance to review the graphic novel! Excited, because I was intrigued to see the story told in a different, more visual formant… But nervous, because I read P.Craig Russell’s comic adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s Coraline earlier in the year, and while it was okay, it didn’t seem to reflect the magic and horror of Gaiman’s story.

However, this adaptation of The Graveyard book was so different to the Coraline graphic novel; so original and magical and sinister at the same time. It’s really captured the essence of the original story, and is just as engaging as the book was. Though it’s been a while since I read The Graveyard Book, I could tell this was a very faithful adaptation of the story – and the images are exactly how I imagined they would be when reading the original book. I was completely captivated especially by one chapter about the Macabray dance, which was my favourite scene from the novel. It was so beautifully and flawlessy depicted.

The art in this graphic novel is stunning. Each of the chapters is illustrated by a different artist (and one chapter is a clever collaboration). I loved the diversity of the artwork – each was individual, striking, and perfect for each chapter. However, (and I get this with pretty much every graphic novel that does it), the frequent changes did annoy me a tiny bit, because I’d get used to one artist’s style then suddenly be introduced to another!

Overall, the graphic novel of The Graveyard Book was incredibly beautiful, and definitely exceeded my expectations. The adaptation was very faithful to Neil Gaiman’s book and the story was just as magical (and maybe even more so, in ways) in graphic novel form! Highly recommended to anyone. I can’t wait for the conclusion in volume two.

My Rating: 

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I received a copy of The Graveyard Book from the publisher, in exchange for a review. In no way at all did this affect my thoughts.

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Graphic Novel Review: Anya’s Ghost by Vera Brosgol

Published 2011 by First Second books.

9615347Goodreads Synopsis: Anya could really use a friend. But her new BFF isn’t kidding about the “Forever” part.
Of all the things Anya expected to find at the bottom of an old well, a new friend was not one of them. Especially not a new friend who’s been dead for a century.
Falling down a well is bad enough, but Anya’s normal life might actually be worse. She’s embarrassed by her family, self-conscious about her body, and she’s pretty much given up on fitting in at school. A new friend—even a ghost—is just what she needs.
Or so she thinks. Spooky, sardonic, and secretly sincere, Anya’s Ghost is a wonderfully entertaining début from author/artist Vera Brosgol.

My Review: Anya’s Ghost was such a brilliant graphic novel! It caught my eye in the library earlier in the month, and I’d read a couple of great things online. I couldn’t wait any longer to read it… Whilst in the middle of loads of titles, I picked it up. Once I had, it was hard to put down! It’s original, compelling, and has some of the most beautiful illustrations.

I wasn’t expecting so much from the 200 page story. It deals with an insecure teenage girl who doesn’t quite fit in, paranormal murder mysteries, and above all friendship… it’s all blended together to make a really emotional and addictive story! I guess I do read a lot of paranormal books… but none that deal with friendship as opposed to a romance story which is more often seen. This story made for a really fresh look on things. And it quickly turns from heart-warming to sinister and terrifying… I really wasn’t expecting the plot twists!

Anya was a very relatable character; she’s a teenager under exam pressure, finding it hard to fit in with anyone in school, struggling to maintain a friendship with the one girl who hangs around with her. It was easy to understand her and I grew really attached to Anya! She develops so much through the book, as she discovers certain things about people in her life and begins to make different and life-changing decisions. Anya’s ghost, Emily, also develops a lot in a really unpredictable way. She’s a really complex and unpredictable character. I didn’t see the ending for the story coming.

The artwork is absolutely beautiful. The style of drawing is simple and cartoon-y, but it really just… went with the story. I loved it. I was really absorbed in the drawings, and I found myself going back over pages after I’d finished just to admire some of the panels! The colour scheme is really pretty, all dark shades of grey and purple.

Overall, I’d really highly recommend Anya’s Ghost to anyone, whether you’re a reader of graphic novels or not! The story was really complex and riveting, with some unpredictable twists that leave readers in a daze. Vera Brosgol has created some very memorable characters that I was left thinking about long after the last page. It was breathtaking, and probably one of the best débuts I’ve read in a while!

My Rating:

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I borrowed a copy of Anya’s Ghost from my local library.