“Snotgirl, Vol. 1: Green Hair Don’t Care” by Bryan Lee O’Malley

Snotgirl, Vol. 1: Green Hair Don't Care(Author: Bryan Lee O’Malley) + (Year: 2017) + (Goodreads)


Review:

To say that I didn’t love this volume would be a lie. I don’t even think I’ve experienced such anticipation and excitement to get my hands on a comic book volume. And Snotgirl managed to deliver.

It’s safe to say now that I am a huge Bryan Lee O’Malley fangirl. His humor and satire are so on point, both here and in Scott Pilgrim. He manages to catch the gist of an entire generation and twist it up in such a way that you find it both funny and endearing, and, at the same time, you know what he is criticizing.

In Snotgirl, Lottie Person is very relevant to our daily experiences. She represents a huge percentage of the girls nowadays: those who are actually Lottie’s, those who want to be Lottie’s, and those who stalk Lottie’s on social media and both see through them and still find them entertaining. I’m pretty sure I fall into the last group, considering that I follow a bunch of beauty and travel bloggers on Instagram, just to find myself sometimes annoyed by how fake everything looks, and at the same time, to “Awww” at pictures of their cute purse-sized doggies and to take fashion advice. So when I say that I feel that this comic book is relevant, I’m convinced it is.

Lottie as a human being is a hot mess of bullshit. She reflects perfectly the fact that outward beauty can sometimes greatly overshadow the need to actually be kind, nice, or at least… “real”. I personally know people who appear as the nicest, most positive and fun people to be around. But once the phone is locked and no one is recording for Snapchat, they don’t really have much to say and the smiles have been used up for dog filters.

At the same time, Lottie is completely smitten with herself, with her problems, her needs, her obsessions, and she is greatly out of touch with the world. Contrary to what might come to mind from the title (at least it did for me), she is not a superhero. However, she is superweird. There’s still a lot that I want to learn about her and about her issues, so hopefully another volume is to come.

The secondary characters in Snotgirl are also very fun, my favourite being Coolgirl. Still, I think that Cutegirl was also hilarious, and although I didn’t like her as a person, I loved reading her mean humor.

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The best thing about this comic book, however, is the art. Both the illustrator, Leslie Hung, and the colorist, Mickey Quinn, did a fantastic job and it was a true pleasure to just stare at the pictures and drool. In fact… I’m pretty sure that the moment I find a proper quality picture of Lottie, I’m changing my phone background.

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Looking forward to Vol. 2!

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Good question, sister.

“Kingdom of Ashes” by Elena May

Kingdom of Ashes (Nightfall, #1)(Author: Elena May) + (Year: 2016) + (Goodreads)


Review:

Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

I have been very, very cautious with vampire books in the last couple of years. In fact, I don’t remember the last vampire novel that I read, aside from re-reading The Historian and Dracula two years ago.

However, I read the synopsis of Kingdom of Ashes, and the many positive reviews, and I decided to give it a shot. And I’m glad I did!

This book reminded me why I love YA so much. It was very engaging and it kept me flipping the pages to a point where I skipped lunch with my colleagues in order to read on a bench.

The thing, which, for me, was very original and exciting, was the fact that every step of the way and every part of the narrative was cleverly thought-through. The author took all famous (and silly) vampire cliches and tropes and she turned them into an outspoken joke between the characters. Elena May managed to make everything that could have destroyed the book its exact opposite. For example at one point Myra tried to pull a Scheherazade on the prince and I was sitting there, worried whether this is going to be a real thing, because it was so obvious. And then the prince himself recognized and ridiculed it.

In terms of plot, there was one thing that was a bit of a cliched narrative and that was the fact that (while the book is obviously not doing the Scheherazade) it did go along the lines of Beauty and the Beast. Watching the movie right after finishing the book just made me realize it more clearly. However, I’m not sure that at a time such as ours where we are so over-saturated with pop culture, it’s possible to create anything that doesn’t borrow from absolutely anywhere.

Character-wise, I liked the fact that there was a game of black/white and shades of gray. Myra was on the same boat as me when I was trying to make up my mind about whether the vampires are all evil or all good, or those are concepts that don’t even apply to the situation. For example, many of the points the prince made on humankind were just as challenging as what can be said about vampires in terms of the book. In a world where vampires and humans co-exist and vampires have overtaken the world and wiped out a big part of the population, I think it’s still fair to say that that’s nothing humans haven’t done to other species or even to themselves. The only reason why people generally sympathize with people, and not, say, vampires or werewolves, is simply because we are people. But humans can be just as evil in a completely different way. For example, just yesterday a colony of griffon vultures in Bulgaria was completely destroyed by hunters who poisoned all of the birds. If that’s not monstrous, I don’t know what is.

Having said all of this, while I did sympathize with Myra at certain times, I didn’t necessarily think she was a nice person. Contrary to what I read in the reviews of people who thought she was selfish and self-absorbed, I think that was one of her most likable traits in terms of writing. She was a very realistic person, unlike the perfect/all-I-do-is-effing-magic heroines of other YA books. I wouldn’t like Myra as a friend, but I can read about her and think “Well… that’s true.” And her selfishness is something that can be attributed to most humans. The fact that she is so focused on her book and improving as a writer is to be expected from any person with any artistic capabilities. Then again, she was sometimes obnoxious and she did make stupid decisions, so I’m on the verge with her. But I am also known among my friends as someone who is specifically very demanding of female characters…

As is probably to be expected, I really liked Vlad, because I would say that I both appreciated his attitude, and got where he was coming from. He followed his set of rules and had a reason to act the way he did: I’m a vampire, my nature requires me to drink blood, so I drink blood. I like art, humans make art, I like humans. The end.

I am really excited for the next book in the series, I really hope it comes sooner, rather than later.

* I’m so happy vampires were just vampires, and not vampyrs, vampyres, etc. and magic was just magic instead of magik or magick.

“Trees, Vol. 1: In Shadow” by Warren Ellis

Trees, Vol. 1: In Shadow (Trees, #1)(Author: Warren Ellis) + (Year: 2015) + (Goodreads)


Review:

Yes, please.

I really, really enjoyed this volume. It was what Arrival would be if it was a comic book, except with a lot more characters.

After my streak of bad comic books, I didn’t even expect much from Trees. I was definitely pleasantly surprised.

Trees tells the story of the world 10 years after people discovered that aliens exist. The “trees”  appear all over the world. Wherever there is a tree, life is much darker and harder, and bad people choose the shadow of the trees.

There are several stories which follow different locations where there is a tree (Rio, Cefalu, New York, Shu (China), Mogadishu, etc.). Some of the people there are barely surviving, while some thrive on the darkness.

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It might seem like the entire volume has too many plots and characters, but I, personally, thought that it was a brilliant way to set up the story. Every tree location has a completely different event unfolding and all of them will be important for the future fight. And if so many cities seem unnecessary to some readers, I should remind that every time they present only one city in a similar futuristic plot, people always go “But what about the rest of the world?” Because of this, I fully support the fact that we have all kinds of sub-plots, and nothing seemed out of place to me. On the contrary, every story seemed just right for what is to come in the series.

I also really liked the art of Trees. It was simple but tasteful and pretty. There were scenes including death and sex, but they were not brutal and disgusting, and instead, they seemed mild and satisfying. This, for me, shows that the creators were sure enough of the quality of the book that they didn’t need to shock the readers with unnecessary vulgarity.

I am really looking forward to the next volumes of Trees!

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“Yaban” by Yakup Kadri Karaosmanoglu

Yaban(Author: Yakup Kadri Karaosmanoglu) + (Year: 1932) + (Goodreads)

(Around the world: Turkey)


Review:

Initially I was not sure about this book. Having read Kiralik Konak, I couldn’t fully grasp where the author was going and why he had a sudden change of heart as to his world views. However, I quickly realized that at the beginning of the book he heavily used irony to introduce the strange world of Anatolia to the reader.

Similarly to what I said in my review about The Bridge on the Drina, I think that a person who has never had any kind of contact with Anatolia, and with Turkey outside of Istanbul in general, would have a problem completely understanding Yaban (translated as The Strange on Wikipedia; whereas yabancı is a foreigner, an alien [though not one from outer space]).

This book represents a world that has hardly changed from the time it was written, or, as a matter of fact, the time it is set in, or any time before that. Anatolia is not anything that one could just imagine. The people living there are, and seem to have been for a really long time, suspended in a certain timelessness. Their world might change as the outside world does, but their mindset doesn’t necessarily need to follow.

The main character in Yaban is a veteran from the war, the son of a rich family from Istanbul, who loses his arm during WWI and, defeated, decides to “look for himself” in a quiet village in Anatolia, supposedly somewhere close to Sakarya (which is still far away from inner or Eastern Anatolia, which is yet another, completely different world). What this man is not prepared for is that even though he is from the same country, even though he speaks almost the same language, albeit much more refined, even though he has lost his arm to protect these people, they will never see him as one of them. He is always rejected as a crippled outsider, unwanted and unwelcome. The most that he ever achieves is to be tolerated, but never sought after.

The world has changed a lot since the times of the book – the Turkish Liberation War (1919-1922), but I wouldn’t say that Anatolia has done so, too. I had the opportunity to live in Ankara, the second biggest metropolis in Turkey, and to travel around the country, and I can understand the character of this book very well. While in university life I could almost fit in, especially considering that I speak the language, whenever me and my friends would go on a trip to any other city in Anatolia, we would stick out like a sore thumb. On one occasion we were walking on a seemingly empty market street in a rather big town, only to have every single person from every single store come out to gawk at us in a matter of seconds.

Therefore, this special mindset can be attributed to the culture of this mainland part of Turkey. The closed societies, everyone knowing everybody else, the people sticking together in times of need, but always mistrusting outsiders. This is something that, I believe, was a common phenomenon all over the world before globalization and multiculturalism, but in many parts of the world, and especially Europe, where by many standards Turkey is, it has changed a lot since. More so, even if strangers and foreigners are noticeable in small towns all over Europe, they are still more welcome.

I think that this lack of change in Anatolia can, therefore, be attributed to the continuing conflict between European culture and Islamic tradition. And when I say Islamic tradition, I especially need to underline the word tradition. Because religions of all kinds are tightly linked to following a set of rules which resist time and change and, in some cases, get much stronger with time and under the pressure of outside forces to evolve.

What bothered me in this story is also closely linked to the traditionalism of religion. Yaban is very actual today. I am afraid to say that in the last century it has never been more close to the reality of the current situation than today. The book is set right in the middle of Ataturk’s war for the liberalization of Turkey. Ataturk’s ideas were very controversial at the time. Today he is widely beloved, but that was not necessarily so during his rise to power. He was also considered an outsider and even an oppressor by some. And the main reason for that was that Ataturk shared many of the European values, including the idea that religion should not play a central role in society. Which means that after he became head of the newly born Turkish Republic, he lowered the importance of religion and went ahead to educate the people in a new set of cultural values.

In recent years religion has been re-gaining its positions, which means that more and more people become torn between Westernization and dedication to Islam. And this time around the government, in opposition to Ataturk’s principles, is promoting the role of religion, therefore taking a step back from what was achieved during the Liberation War. And never has the following quote from the book been more relevant to society, and not in a good way:

– I know, you are one of them. 
– Who are “them”?
– The ones who support Kemal Pasha [Ataturk].
– How can a man be a Turk and not support Kemal Pasha?
– My friend, we are not Turks.
– What are you, then?
– We are Muslim, alhamdulillah, praise be to God.

(translated by me) 

 

 

“The Wicked + The Divine, Vol. 4: Rising Action” by Kieron Gillen

The Wicked + The Divine, Vol. 4: Rising Action(Author: Kieron Gillen) + (Year: 2016) + (Goodreads)


Review:

Yes! Thank the Pantheon, the art disaster that was the last volume has been put to an end. I couldn’t be happier to have the beautiful art back. Having read as many comic books as I have so far, I think that Jamie McKelvie’s art is up there at the top for me.

In every single frame the art is so astoundingly beautiful that I am even willing to forgive some of the flaws in the plot.

This volume convinced me that The Wicked + The Divine is following a simple story arc, using simple art (in the sense that there aren’t millions upon millions of layers, textures and so on), and following a pace that is neither too slow, nor too fast. While I think that this is a very safe recipe, it also makes it easier to follow through with the plots and to not create a mess of story lines that go no where. At the same time, the story does draw the reader in and keep their interest.

There are two things that I support, and at the same time, would not mind if they changed a bit:

  1. The pace: As I said, thanks to the medium pace, the story lines get resolved. However, 4 volumes in, we haven’t moved that much forward in terms of the plot. The character development is more vigorous, but the general aim of the book is somewhere in the distant future, because only at the end of this volume, do we see the end of the first act. Ananke‘s words at the end of Rising Action are ominous and predict that there is going to be a completely different big arc in the book, and one that will have a much bigger adversary.
  2. The character interactions: The characters have a set of relationships with each other worthy of a soap opera, but it’s actually really hard to find the motivation for their actions. Why these two hate each other and those two don’t is usually determined by the alliances and enmity which serve the author. Also, taking into consideration that they are in a constant war, they don’t actually have that much time to interact.

Thank being said, I love Laura’s team. But not Laura herself. He-he.

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