Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Review/Discussion: Blue is the Warmest Colour by Julie Maroh

Blue is the Warmest Colour
by Julie Maroh
Summary: Blue is the Warmest Color is a graphic novel about growing up, falling in love, and coming out. Clementine is a junior in high school who seems average enough: she has friends, family, and the romantic attention of the boys in her school. When her openly gay best friend takes her out on the town, she wanders into a lesbian bar where she encounters Emma: a punkish, confident girl with blue hair. Their attraction is instant and electric, and Clementine find herself in a relationship that will test her friends, parents, and her own ideas about herself and her identity.
This graphic novel has been on my radar for a really long time, and I'm not sure why it took me so long to pick it up...but I finally did. And I sort of loved it, but I also had a couple of issues with it.

Let's start with the easy stuff: the artwork. The artwork in this is absolutely stunning. I loved that aspect of it -- the drawings, the colour palette...all of it.

I loved the characters so much. When it comes to graphic novels, I usually don't feel like the characters have gotten under my skin the way they do when I read a good novel, but the characters in this...they burrowed right under my skin and made themselves at home. They felt realist and I felt for them -- I was happy for their happiness and sad right along with their sadness.

And the story... The story started out so well. The majority of it was done beautifully, especially Clementine coming to terms with her sexuality, her struggle with it, then acceptance of it... I loved that. And I loved her relationship with Emma and the fact it showed the ups and the downs, instead of
just the good parts.

It went downhill a bit towards the end though. The thing is, we know what's going to happen right from the start, just not the specifics of it...and when it got to the specifics, the execution of it felt rushed (in spite of us knowing it would happen) and contrived and like the way it was told didn't measure up to the high standards set by the earlier parts of the book.

Now, onto the complicated bit (and there will be some spoilers), the bit that makes me feel the need to say "I loved it, but" rather than just saying I loved it...

There was a kind of biphobic tone to the book. Maybe I misjudged that, but it's just how it came across to me while reading. The reason it bothered me was that it felt like the author didn't even realise she was doing it... like it wasn't this thing deliberately written into the story and acknowledged.

For example: there's a scene with Emma and Clementine, and Emma basically says the reason she's been holding back with Emma is because she thinks that Clem would eventually leave her for a guy, kind of implying that her feelings were just a phase or something. And then later in the story, it reinforces the stereotype that bisexual women cheat on their girlfriends with men and it doesn't really go into why she did instead of giving some other reason for that to have happened, it literally just is a stereotype with nothing more to it.

Also, it's never really confirmed whether Clem actually is bisexual or not...there are things that imply it (the inclusion of biphobic stereotypes in relation to her character adds to that) but the word isn't really used. But even if she isn't, it doesn't change the biphobia that actually is present in the story (if anything, it adds to it because bi erasure is a thing, so implying that she's bi in the story without actually using the word, well...).

Did that make me hate the book? No. But it did bother me a bit.

And then there's the Dead Lesbians/Bury Your Gays trope. Now, the fact that it was written by a lesbian makes it bother me slightly less...but still, it was poorly executed and the story doesn't exist in a vacuum and the fact that the story contains that trope makes it just another of many stories where the lesbian couple is torn apart by death. It didn't make me angry, the way it would had a straight person written it, but it did disappoint me.

I guess that's all I have to say about it. I'd rate it 4 stars out of 5. I still really recommend it, for all the stuff it gets right. If anyone has any thoughts re: biphobia in the story/on the Dead Lesbians trope, let me know?


Monday, 6 February 2017

Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco

Stalking Jack the Ripper
by Kerri Maniscalco
Summary: Seventeen-year-old Audrey Rose Wadsworth was born a lord's daughter, with a life of wealth and privilege stretched out before her. But between the social teas and silk dress fittings, she leads a forbidden secret life.

Against her stern father's wishes and society's expectations, Audrey often slips away to her uncle's laboratory to study the gruesome practice of forensic medicine. When her work on a string of savagely killed corpses drags Audrey into the investigation of a serial murderer, her search for answers brings her close to her own sheltered world.
I am one of the many people who has a morbid fascination with the Jack the Ripper case. I also have a morbid fascination with mortuary work. And I love historical romance, especially ones with feminist heroines who fight against societal pressures.

I was expecting to love this book, is what I'm getting at.

In theory, it ticked so many boxes that interest me...but in execution, it fell kind of flat. I literally fell asleep trying to read this at least 4 times within the first 100 pages, and after that I could only tolerate reading a chapter or two at a time before my mind would start to wander.

Basically, I was bored. The Jack the Ripper stuff wasn't as interesting as it should have been...but that was my mistake for having high expectations there, I didn't factor in that my familiarity with the case would snuff out any suspense there would be in that part of the story. But the fictional aspects of the case original to the book were a bit too predictable -- it's obvious from very early in the book who the bad guy is and who the red herrings are.

And the mortuary stuff, that's something I was most excited to read about in this context but it was minimal (or at least it felt minimal).

The romance was really bland too. I liked the characters enough as individuals, but I was indifferent to them together, there was no spark or build up, no tension or anything and anytime Thomas would say a supposed-to-be-flirty line, it felt it didn't fit in the time period and the line would be more at home in a contemporary novel or something (which isn't a bad thing exactly, it's just that when I'm reading a historical romance, I want it to have that historical vibe to it).

The book got better in the last quarter as far as pace went, although there were still little things that bugged me (the reveal felt kind of sloppy and cliche, the scene with the medium was annoying even if the character was inspired by a real life person -- maybe because I was looking forward to read a story rooted in science, where the protagonist is a forensic scientist... the hints at the paranormal didn't feel necessary).

This review is coming across as pretty negative, but I actually didn't hate the book, I just had high expectations for it and it didn't come close to meeting them. It was an okay book and I can see why other people would love it, but it was just average to me. I'd rate it 3 stars out of 5. I would recommend checking it out if it sounds appealing to you, but it just wasn't the book for me.


Thursday, 12 January 2017

Night Shift by Debi Gliori

Night Shift 
by Debi Gliori 

Summary: With stunning black and white illustration and deceptively simple text, author and illustrator Debi Gliori examines how depression affects one's whole outlook upon life, and shows that there can be an escape - it may not be easy to find, but it is there. Drawn from Debi's own experiences and with a moving testimony at the end of the book explaining how depression has affected her and how she continues to cope, Debi hopes that by sharing her own experience she can help others who suffer from depression, and to find that subtle shift that will show the way out. 
I don't read many picture books, but as soon as I read the summary for this one I knew it was one I had to read and I have zero regrets.

For starters, the illustrations were absolutely stunning. Using dragons as the embodiment of depression was such a perfect choice. And I love that it was really minimal with the text -- it's so easy to fill page after page with thousands of words, trying to make sense of mental illness, trying to write it in a way that makes sense...but Debi manages to capture the feeling exactly right in just a few simple lines and I loved that.

It's such a sad and lovely and hopeful book and I can't think of much else to say about it except I highly recommend it -- if you want to understand depression or if you have depression and want to feel understood.

I'd rate it 5 stars out of 5.



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