Tag: graphic novels

Music Monday: Beatles with an A: Birth of a Band

Posted 29 September, 2014 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

Beatles with an A: The Birth of a Band by: Mauri Kunnas

Source: Publisher. I received a copy of this book for review consideration.
Synopsis: (Publisher)
These are the first beats of the Beatles’ career as only legendary rock cartoonist Mauri Kunnas could tell them. Hilarious moments and details that even 
dedicated fans won’t remember having heard before are all told with Kunnas’s characteristically raucous humour and virtuosic drawing skills. 

The riotous tale, from rocking-horse to the recording studio in Abbey Road, where the first singles were laid down. It is a story told thousands of times over, but never in quite such a wacky screwball manner. 

I wanted to really love this book. I adore The Beatles and will snatch up all the reading material I can find on them, so this graphic novel looked like it would be a perfect fit for me.

The storytelling and the writing was well done, quirky and funny, most tales I had heard (as those of us that would call ourselves ‘Beatlemaniacs’ even forty years later, must). But Kunnas reworked the tales so that they were fresh and funny and still delightful. 

My problem came with the art. Most of the time, even with graphic novels the art is a secondary concern for me. To be sure, all of the panels are done in full color and there’s a lot of intricacy in the backgrounds for the most part it’s very impressive. But the people… I don’t know, you see the cover photo above, I felt it was stylistically a little distracting for me.

Please note this is coming from someone with little-to-no talent in the visual arts with only a passing understanding of art history as a whole and even less so on the history of comics and graphic novels.

I suspect this would be a highly enjoyable read for those that have a fascination with The Beatles, especially if you don’t know much about their early years. It’s a fun read and despite my problems with the art I did enjoy it quite a lot.

So, Readers, anyone else out there with a fascination with The Beatles? What do you think about the cover? Do you have any must-read Beatles titles for me?


April @ The Steadfast Reader



Manga Monday: Les Miserables

Posted 1 September, 2014 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

Manga Monday: Les MiserablesLes Miserables - Manga Classics by Victor Hugo
Published by UDON Entertainment Corporation on August 19th 2014
Genres: Comics & Graphic Novels, Historical Fiction, Manga
Pages: 336

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange honest review consideration. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Adapted for stage and screen, loved by millions, Victor Hugo's classic novel of love & tragedy during the French Revolution is reborn in this fantastic new manga edition! The gorgeous art of TseMei Lee brings to life the tragic stories of Jean Valjean, Inspector Javert, and the beautiful Fantine, in this epic adaptation of Les Miserables!

So. Les Misérables. I knocked reading the original off of my bucket list, last year sometime(?) – and hated it. (Review) But I dislike the book, not necessarily for its length, but because I hate most of the characters. (Exceptions: Eponine and Jean Valjean) It’s also worth noting that I love pretty much every screen and stage adaptation that has been put out there, so a manga version seemed like it could be a lot of fun.

Sadly, I did not find this to be a ton of fun. It’s not awful, it just feels like most of the depth of the original (and the movies) was lost in the adaptation. I completely understand (and it is noted in the book itself) that when you are cutting a 1,000+ page novel down to 360 pages of manga that you’re going to have to leave some stuff out. Still. Perhaps two volumes would have been better to flesh out Javert, Eponine, and Jean Valjean. 
The writing itself was also a bit overly simplistic with this adaptation. Just because its manga or a graphic novel doesn’t give authors a pass on the writing of ‘the script’. 
While the illustrations were pretty, they were seemed standard as far as manga-style goes. (Not that I’m an expert.) Full color might have added a lot to making the artwork more impressive.
I don’t think that I’ll be picking up any other books in this line unless they just jump into my hands at the library. I think that there’s already a version of Pride and Prejudice in the works.

Unless you’re hardcore into manga or you happen upon it at the library or a garage sale I’d probably recommend passing on this one. 

What about you, Reader? Does the idea of Manga Classics seem intriguing to you? I know there are a lot of Austen fans out there, anyone think they might pick up Pride and Prejudice? I’d be interested in hearing about it! 


April @ The Steadfast Reader



Six Degrees of Separation: The Goldfinch

Posted 7 July, 2014 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in memes

It’s a new month so it means a new Six Degrees of Separation hosted by  Annabel and Emma!

This month we get to start with Donna Tartt’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel The Goldfinch. Now, again, I haven’t read The Goldfinch, but I do want to. Right after the bar exam. Now critics have all been Grumpy McGrumps about this book and how well it’s doing so let’s start out with another, perhaps surprising, Pulitzer Prize winner.

Maus by Art Spiegelman, is a surprising Pulitzer winner, it is a graphic novel, that against all odds, conveys powerfully both Spiegelman’s difficult relationship with his father and the horrors his father faced both in Hitler’s Europe and then at Auschwitz. A graphic novel doesn’t feel like it should be an appropriate medium for such dark and difficult subject matter, but it’s wonderfully executed.

Since we’re talking about the Holocaust and WWII the natural progression is to the most comprehensive and important work about the topic to date. The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich by William L. Shirer. This book is a huge beast of a work, covering everything from Hitler’s personal history, to culture in Germany before and during WWII, the death camps, and war maneuvers. If you haven’t read it, I highly encourage it. I’m convinced that a finer account has not been written.

Two Nazi books are enough for this list, where do we go from here? Well. How about Argentina? Lots of Nazis fled to Argentina following WWII (and Juan Peron greatly admired Mussolini) so I think that we can safely move on to the novel Santa Evita by Tomas Eloy Martinez. It’s hard to tell if this book is fiction or not, but the Library of Congress has it listed as fiction. This is the story of what happened to Eva Peron’s corpse, not the story of Eva Peron herself. Recommended for fans of Andrew Lloyd Weber’s Evita.

Talking about musicals, just like last month there are a few ways I could go here… let’s go obvious. The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux. The story of the ‘haunted’ Paris opera house, which let’s face it – is only remembered because of the musical adaptation. Sorry, Gaston!

Now I know I said we had enough Nazis, but we’re in Paris and there is a recent WWII novel that is just lovely, you may have heard of it? All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. It’s a beautifully written novel that has a beautiful cover to match.

We might as well finish this this list off in Paris. Because I love Paris. Vicki Lesage wrote a highly amusing, absolutely charming memoir entitled Confessions of a Paris Party Girl about the life and times of an ex-pat living in Paris. Definitely check that one out!

From The Goldfinch to Confessions of a Paris Party Girl in six easy steps! Do you want to play? I know you do! Here’s how:

Thanks again to Annabel and Emma for hosting! 

Where do you go from The Goldfinch Reader? Don’t you absolutely love this monthly meme? 
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April @ The Steadfast Reader



WWII Wednesday: The Complete Maus

Posted 2 April, 2014 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

WWII Wednesday: The Complete MausThe Complete Maus by Art Spiegelman
Published by Pantheon Books on 1986
Genres: Biography & Autobiography, Comics & Graphic Novels, History, Holocaust, Jewish, Literary, Military, Personal Memoirs, World War II
Pages: 159

Combined for the first time here are Maus I: A Survivor's Tale and Maus II - the complete story of Vladek Spiegelman and his wife, living and surviving in Hitler's Europe. By addressing the horror of the Holocaust through cartoons, the author captures the everyday reality of fear and is able to explore the guilt, relief and extraordinary sensation of survival - and how the children of survivors are in their own way affected by the trials of their parents. A contemporary classic of immeasurable significance.

I inhaled this book. Ever since reading about its existence about a year ago I knew that I had to read these. Harrowing is a word that comes to mind, as is, ‘painful’. But I am in agreement with the significance that the synopsis places on these works.

To tackle the Holocaust and Auschwitz in a graphic novel seems like a crazy idea. In fact, it sounds flat out impossible. Yet, Spiegelman does just this. He manages to disarm the reader of any preconceived notions that she might have about the legitimacy of the graphic novel format in dealing with such a grim topic.

I usually don’t focus too much on the artwork in graphic novels, as long as it doesn’t hinder the flow of the story or isn’t overwhelmingly beautiful it’s usually just a medium for me. This work is different. Stylistically I didn’t care for the grittiness of the artwork at first, but as the story unwound itself it became clear that the grittiness and was for a reason… and it only goes to make to story so much more powerful. 

Spiegelman makes the story even more personal by framing his father’s Auschwitz with the story of Spiegelman trying to relate to his father and heal old hurts. It’s truly an incredible piece and wholly deserving of the Pulitzer that it one.

Guys, if you read one book on the Holocaust this year, let this be it. 


April @ The Steadfast Reader



Frightful Friday: ‘The Walking Dead’ Compendiums 1 & 2

Posted 7 February, 2014 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

The Walking Dead Compendiums 1 & 2 (1 – 96) by: Robert Kirkman

Source: Gift (from family)
These books need no synopsis, if you don’t have a synopsis level understanding of these graphic novels already, you’re missing out on a huge cultural phenomenon and need to march yourself right over to Wikipedia and educate yourself. Then you’re probably going to have to subscribe to Netflix and binge watch the crazy-awesome AMC series.

These compendiums are two huge volumes of a little over 1,000 pages each. Since they’re graphic novels it makes the page count much less impressive, but it’s still a fairly extensive body of work.

Now, I’m not normally a graphic novel person, though I’ve been reading more of them since this foray into book blogging. The Walking Dead is an exception to the rule. I asked for these volumes for Christmas (because before I read them I couldn’t justify the purchase myself). I love the AMC series, although it took me until at least halfway through the second season before it grew on me. So with my background of excluding graphic novels as serious contenders for truly awesome books and stories and the fact that I love the television series, I didn’t expect to be overly wowed by these. 

I was so totally wrong. 

These two volumes bring a depth to (most) of the characters that is lacking in the television series. I know. You’re thinking, “But those characters on the television machine are pretty deep and important, especially as far as book-to-screen characters go.” I know! These books are super exciting, the characters are all deeply flawed and extremely interesting. 

The series, at first blush, appears to be about the zombie apocalypse. But this is selling the whole thing short, it’s really a very violent, in depth character study of how people react to life and death situations. On how people react to constant life and death situations. It was the books that (finally) made me realize the ‘walking dead’ in the title refers to the survivors not the zombies. (My mind was blown about that a few Top Ten Tuesday‘s ago.)

There are characters that are really only identifiable by name. (Take Maggie, she’s a completely different [read: annoying] person in the graphic novels.) Daryl and Merle are fabricated completely for the screen, there are no characters that fit those molds in the book. Lori! Carl! Shane! Judith! Everything is different! 

But you know what’s the most awesome part of all this? One doesn’t detract from the other. The books are fabulous, I love them, and will probably purchase the third compendium for myself when it comes out. The television series is equally amazing and has almost taken a complete turn from where the books go. It’s one of the rare instances where the books and the screen adaptation are of equal awesomeness

The constant is Rick, always Rick. The flawed leader, struggling father, the guy who keeps everyone together. 

Most of the art is so-so, though there are the occasional full page spreads that are detailed and wonderful. The story and the characters flow around the art, so I suppose it’s doing what it’s meant to. My only other complaint is: can the publisher move these things to the Kindle? Please? The volumes are printed on heavier than normal paper so I felt a little like Matilda reading Dickens when I was reading these. They are huge and heavy. I would have been just fine reading them on my iPad, thanks.

Go read these right now. Also, if you’re not caught up, you still have two days to binge watch the series as the second half of season four starts on AMC this Sunday (9 Feb 14) at 9/8 central.


*After writing the first half of this post I realized that it’s really aimed at people who have already watched or are at least familiar with the television series, despite that there are no spoilers (to the books or the show).

April @ The Steadfast Reader



World War Two Wednesday: Hidden

Posted 5 February, 2014 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

World War Two Wednesday: HiddenHidden: A Child's Story of the Holocaust by Loic Dauvillier
Published by Macmillan on April 1st 2014
Genres: Comics & Graphic Novels, Family, General, Historical, Holocaust, Multigenerational, Young Adult
Pages: 80

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange honest review consideration. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

In this gentle, poetic young graphic novel, Dounia, a grandmother, tells her granddaughter the story even her son has never heard: how, as a young Jewish girl in Paris, she was hidden away from the Nazis by a series of neighbors and friends who risked their lives to keep her alive when her parents had been taken to concentration camps. Hidden ends on a tender note, with Dounia and her mother rediscovering each other as World War II ends . . . and a young girl in present-day France becoming closer to her grandmother, who can finally, after all those years, tell her story. With words by Loïc Dauvillier and art by Marc Lizano and Greg Salsedo, this picture book-style comic for young readers is a touching read.

The synopsis uses the best word for this graphic novel, that’s gentle. Hidden is intended for younger readers, I’d say seven to twelve or so. It is sad and a little gloomy but I still think that this is probably an excellent read for this age demographic. It manages to convey both the hurt and the horror of the holocaust without being too graphic. This is a fine line to walk and Dauvillier and his artists walk it perfectly. 

The story is couched in a frame, with the main story being told to a little girl by her grandmother. This helps to give it a feel of tenderness and also to make the story more personal. Dounia’s (the grandmother) story beings at the rise of the Vichy government in France. The alienation and persecution of Jews in public life is shown through the way that both children and teachers treat Dounia after government edicts are passed requiring Jews to wear the Star of David. 

Dounia is hidden away in a false bottom of a bureau while her parents are arrested and taken away to concentration camps. The bravery of her neighbors in caring for her and continuing to keep her safe is touching and believable. 

The art is so-so. Nothing to write home about, but appropriately done considering the intended age and the subject matter. It’s not distracting and the story flows well around it. 

Hidden ends with a one page typed afterword, giving context and further explanation of what exactly was going on in the story. The afterword is also geared towards young readers, though not glaringly so. It informs me that 11,400 French children were murdered during the Holocaust. Children.

The members of the French Resistance movement are often underrepresented in my Holocaust reading. On my many visits to Paris (and throughout France) I have neglected looking for monuments to the French Resistance. That changes next time I go. 

Great resource to open doors to talk to your children about the historical significance of the Holocaust and the importance of standing up against injustice in our own lives. I think this book has the potential to start some great conversations on why neither bullying nor pretending not to notice bullying are okay.

If you’re wondering about the three-star rating, it’s a combination of the art, the projected price-tag, and the scope. If you’re an adult without kids, unless you have an exceptional interest in the holocaust, skip this one, or at least get it from the library or read it in a single sitting in the bookstore, if you have kids in the middle grade age range – it’s absolutely worth it.


April @ The Steadfast Reader



Advanced Review: Lazarus, Book One: Family

Posted 8 October, 2013 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

Advanced Review: Lazarus, Book One: FamilyLazarus by Greg Rucka
Published by Image Comics on 2013
Genres: Comics & Graphic Novels, Dystopian, Fiction, General, Science Fiction
Pages: 96

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange honest review consideration. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Collecting the first four issues of the Eisner-winning team of Rucka and Lark's critically acclaimed new series about Forever Carlyle, the Lazarus of the Carlyle Family. Included is the previously only-available-online, four-page short, "Family: Prelude." In a dystopian near-future, government is a quaint concept, resources are coveted, and possession is 100% of the law. A handful of Families rule, jealously guarding what they have and exploiting the Waste who struggle to survive in their domains. Forever Carlyle defends her family's holdings through deception and force as their protector, their Lazarus. Shot dead defending the family home, Forever's day goes downhill from there...

Maybe I’m just not the graphic novel type. 

Lazarus is conceived in a genre that I generally love — the dystopia, but I just didn’t feel any power behind it. This is often my complaint when it comes to graphic novels, that they lack the depth of a ‘real’ novel. 

That being said, the dystopia created in Lazarus is a truly frightening one because it is actually true in so many parts of the world today. A few wealthy individuals and their families fight for resources while the rest of the human population is merely considered ‘waste’. Great concept, I’d like to see it more fleshed out.

The artwork was underwhelming as well.


April @ The Steadfast Reader



Monday Madness: Thumbprint

Posted 7 October, 2013 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

Monday Madness: ThumbprintJoe Hill's Thumbprint by Joe Hill
Published by IDW Publishing Pages: 126

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange honest review consideration. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Private Mallory Grennan had done terrible things as an Abu Ghraib prison worker. After being discharged from the army, Mal thought she was leaving her sins behind to start a new life back home. But some things can't be left behind -- some things don't want to be left behind. By Joe Hill and Jason Ciaramella, the writing team that brought you the Eisner-award nominated one-shot, The Cape, with art by Vic Malhotra. Thumbprint will turn your guts inside out.

I’m going to take this entry and review both the short story ‘Thumbprint’ by Joe Hill, which has already been published, and also provide an advanced review for the graphic novel adaptation of the same name. 

Short Story: Kindle Single

Delicious! Joe Hill is an amazing short story writer and a good novelist. If he keeps up this show of talent he may rival his father one day! …meaning I should be buying signed copies of his books, now.
This is ultimately a suspense story, but there are deeper themes at work here.
This is a story that resonates with me as an ex-military member. It touches on the disturbances that war can cause in our psyche and the terrible things that people are able to do in the name of patriotism or freedom. PTSD is real and terrible. 

Graphic Novel

I read the short story first and I LOVED it. The graphic novel is not nearly as powerful – for some reason the two share the same ISBN on Goodreads. The illustrations are underdone and it lacks the power and the pain of a soldier who has done terrible things and is suffering for them. Just like with movie adaptations I find that it’s more difficult to convey the thoughts, feelings, and insights into characters the way that a novel or a short story can. 

April @ The Steadfast Reader



Advance Review: The Fifth Beatle

Posted 16 September, 2013 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

Advance Review: The Fifth BeatleThe Fifth Beatle: The Brian Epstein Story by Vivek J. Tiwary
Published by Dark Horse Comics on October 29th 2013
Genres: Comics & Graphic Novels, General
Pages: 144

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange honest review consideration. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

The Fifth Beatle is the untold true story of Brian Epstein, the visionary manager who discovered and guided The Beatles-from their gigs in a tiny cellar in Liverpool to unprecedented international stardom. Yet more than merely the story of "The Man Who Made The Beatles," The Fifth Beatle is an uplifting, tragic, and ultimately inspirational human story about the struggle to overcome seemingly insurmountable odds. Brian himself died painfully lonely at the young age of thirty-two, having helped The Beatles prove through "Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" that pop music could be an inspirational art form. He was homosexual when it was a felony to be so in the United Kingdom, Jewish at a time of anti-Semitism, and from Liverpool when it was considered just a dingy port town.

First, I don’t normally read graphic novels, but I adore The Beatles. While I knew some of Brian Epstein’s history, I had hoped that this would be more comprehensive. Had I not known most of the Epstein story already I might have been lost. For that reason I would only recommend this to Beatlemaniacs who have at least a basic understanding of who Brian Epstein was and his role with The Beatles.


That being said, Epstein’s story is powerful. Young and wealthy, but still driven by his passions, he experiences victory and overcomes enormous odds. His story also highlights the pain and isolation that many LGTB youths in England experienced at the time, and to some extent, even today, worldwide.


Also, I had always thought that the fifth Beatle was considered to be Stuart Sutcliffe. But a cursory search of the highly credible source Wikipedia leads me to a Paul McCartney quote that states:


“If anyone was the fifth Beatle, it was [Beatles’ manager] Brian Epstein.”


The illustrations are lovely and keep with the standard Japanese Manga style with a hint of 60’s realness.

April @ The Steadfast Reader

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