Batman Nightwalker by Marie Lu | 1 Minute Reviews

The second book in the new DC Icons series produced by Penguin Books comes from YA stalwart Marie Lu, following up to Leigh Bardugo’s fantastic turn on Wonder Woman. I had my first experience with Lu in 2017, when I thoroughly enjoyed her cyber-punk gaming romp Warcross.

Batman Nightwalker follows much in this vein, a fun fast-paced adventure through the grimy streets of Gotham where we find teenage Bruce Wayne gaining his inheritance just as the Nightwalkers come to power.

9780399549786 9780141386829

The paperback and special edition hardback editions of Batman Nightwalker

In his first taste of vigilanteism, upon leaving his 18th birthday party, Bruce finds himself disobeying police orders and chasing down a criminal in a car. As punishment for his reckless behaviour, Bruce is ordered to spend community service on Janitorial duties at Arkham Asylum, Gotham’s infamous prison-cum-psychiatric institute. While working on an extra-secure floor where the most cruel criminals are kept, Bruce meets the beautiful, disarming Madeleine — a girl who will only speak to him. Drawn into police investigations focussing on Madeleine and the Nightwalkers, Bruce finds himself plunging into danger in order to save the city he calls home.

I genuinely enjoyed this pacy novel, which successfully brings the dark Gotham city to the YA genre. Batman as a character has been quite hit and miss for me in the past — I loved the cartoons of the 90s, and pretty much hated the whole Nolan run for being far too serious about itself. I think Lu’s Batman walks the line between light and dark well, showing Bruce’s foolhardy nature alongside his desire to do good, but set within a world that retains a smidgen of the light-heartedness of the original Batman portrayals. Alongside this, we are regularly fed hints of the man that Bruce will become as he is increasingly frustrated by both the law enforcement and endemic corruption in Gotham.

Madeleine Wallace makes an interesting new character to the Batman canon; a character who keeps her cards close to her chest and seeds thoughts and clues in Bruce’s mind. I was really into her cool demeanour and commitment to intricate origami.

I particularly enjoyed his best friend Dianne, who according to the acknowledgements is an insert of a close friend of Marie Lu (and you can tell, in a good way). I also enjoyed the storyline weaved with Harvey Dent, postured as the third member of this friendship group along with Bruce, bringing to light his troubled backstory.

Batman Nightwalker is a fast-paced, easy-read adventure through the streets of Gotham, best read in one single sitting — though I do warn you that you will become nervous about the locks on your doors and the technology in your home…

As with Wonder Woman, Penguin and DC Icons have released both a paperback edition and a special edition Hardback of Batman Nightwalker. Sarah J Maas fans will also be pleased to learn that it includes the first chapter of DCI Icons’ third book authored by her, Catwoman Soulstealer.

Get it here: Hive (UK) – PaperbackHardback

Book Depository (International) – Paperback / Hardback

What to read next:

Thank you to Penguin Platform for sending me the copy of this to read.

 

Queer, A Graphic History by Meg-John Barker and Julia Scheele | 1 Minute Reviews

Here’s the thing: I’m queer in a number of ways. I’ve known I was attracted to multiple genders for a long time, but good old childhood shaming and being called “Lizzie the Lesbo” was enough for me to squash that side of me until I reached adulthood and eventually felt safe enough to think about it. I’ve known I was not a girl and not a boy either for my whole life, existing in the in-between and struggling with intermittent social and physical dysphoria. It was only in my late twenties that I started to find the words for this, having finally met other genderqueer, trans and nonbinary people.

Part of my own coming out was through learning about queer politics, and in turn theory. But I’m going to be really honest with you here — I did not understand a lot of it. When I say understand, I don’t mean politically align with. I mean the language was so often complex, so very different from the English I speak or have heard throughout my life, that I would be thrown off entirely.

There’s been discussions around this on Twitter, quite rightly pointing out that academic language can be alienating for people, particularly working class people who haven’t studied humanities. The amount of times I’ve had to google words like “hegemony” and “praxis” in order to understand a sentence are innumerable.

The same thing has happened to me with feminist theory. I have tried quite a few times to read works by Nancy Fraser, or sections of Judith Butler’s writing, or even try and access philosophy through a beginner’s course, and I never managed to get very far. Until today.

queer.PNG

A few weeks ago, myself and Alice were walking through Soho, talking about the DIVA book conference she’d recently been to and how revelatory it was that an event devoted to queer female literature was not protested any more. We got onto the topic of Section 8, the problems of a discourse centring around “always knowing” about your own queer identity, and a few other connected topics. She mentioned Queer, A Graphic History to me, and I decided there in the rain in Soho that we would march to the bookshop and I’d buy it.

I’m really pleased to say that having read Queer, A Graphic History I actually think I have a handle on theory! Barker takes the reader through the evolution of queer theory and the main contributors, right up to the present day and the futures directions of study that are developing. Thanks to Scheele’s wonderful illustrations, concepts are broken down simply, faces given to mysterious names and summarised quotes attributed to those faces.

umbrella

As I suspected, I knew a lot of these fundamentals of queer theory — intersectionality, gender perfomativity, the black feminists who correctly challenged much of the original white thinkers — but I didn’t have the faces, the names, the language behind the concepts. Never again will I shrink when I hear someone attribute a concept to Lacan or Foucault, because I now have a loose understanding of their positions and a Scheele portrait to put their name to.

Barker has also provided a resources section at the back with accessible further reading on sexuality and gender, and queer theory, which is incredibly useful as so often I pick up a book and fall into the inaccessible language pit.

Queer, A Graphic History is an informative, affirming, hopeful and essential read for anyone who wants to know more about queer theory, politics and activism. However, irrespective of your own identity, Queer is also a great introduction to examining binaries and biases in our daily lives and media. This is a thoughtful and powerful book to spend an afternoon reading and a lifetime acting upon.

Interested? Get it here: Hive (UK) / Book Depository (Int)

What to read next:

Dr MEG-JOHN BARKER is a writer, therapist, and activist-academic specialising in sex, gender and relationships. Meg-John is a senior lecturer in psychology at the Open University and a UKCP accredited psychotherapist, and has over a decade of experience researching and publishing on these topics including the popular book Rewriting the Rules. @megjohnbarker

JULIA SCHEELE is an illustrator, graphic facilitator and comic book artist. She runs One Beat Zines, a feminist zine collective and distributor. @juliascheele

Wonder Woman by Leigh Bardugo | 1 Minute Reviews

I’ve never really connected with DC’s comic book heroes in the way I have with Marvel. As a child, I was more interested in the X-Men and the myriad of genders and non human characters on screen. That has started to change, as Diana has moved more into the forefront due to her more recent comic book adaptations and most notably the newest film with Gal Gadot – neither of which I’ve actually participated in yet.

When I heard Leigh Bardugo was writing a Wonder Woman novel, I was immediately interested. Leigh Bardugo is one of my favourite authors (not that you’d know here because somehow I’ve neglected to review any of her books??) and I completely trust in her writing and vision, even if she’d moved away from my beloved world of the Grisha to one of DC’s greatest superheroes.

9780141387376

I was completely right to trust her. Bardugo’s love for Wonder Woman is clear – as discussed in this Book Riot interview and her acknowledgements – leaving me in no doubt that she was the right person to author this book.

Warbringer is a great novel for those unfamiliar with Wonder Woman’s backstory and lore, the latter I realised I know little about. Warbringer predates Diana’s true origin story as Wonder Woman, so consider this a prequel to the movie.

While racing her sisters, Diana spots a shipwreck off the coast of the Amazon island Themyscira. Called to the chaos, Diana rescues a drowning girl, Alia Keralis, ensuring their fates entwine deeply. Alia is no mere ordinary mortal; she is a descendant of Helen of Troy and a person fated to bring about blood shed and disaster – a Warbringer. When the Oracle suggests Diana either leave her to die or attempt to cure Alia of the Warbringer’s curse, Diana chooses the latter, determined to prove herself as an Amazon like her sisters.

In Warbringer, Bardugo assembles a wonderful cast of characters to join Diana on the mission to save the world – stern focussed Jason, creative loyal Nim, and troubled Theo. Alia herself is a wonderful young science nerd, determined to live up to the Keralis scientific legacy with her brother’s help. In a race against time, the gang must travel from New York to the ruined spring of Helen of Troy in Greece.

Bardugo’s research into the mythology of Amazons and ancient Greece is clear (so much so that she provided a very handy bibliography at the back of the book!). In Warbringer, the mythology of the Amazons is brought closer to our world, stepping away from the Amazons as a super race and towards a kind of reincarnation for brave women. This change in their origin made me connect much more with the Amazons as a people, and in turn with Diana’s desire to prove herself as one of them.

Diana facing up to the realities of our world – particularly gross men on the New York subway – is a joy to read. I especially love Diana’s bafflement and literal interpretations – much like Drax the Destroyer of Guardians of the Galaxy – not just for the pure comedy, but also the solidarity that someone else feels relatively confused by the operational structure of our Western society.

Bardugo’s Diana feels her own fully fleshed creation, clearly the version that has lived in her mind since she was a child; she feels a completely full person of her own. Her compassion, strength and vitality leap from the page, in a book that is as much her story as it is Alia’s. In my opinion, this is contrary to most interpretations of comic book origin characters which rely on knowledge of canon and backstory to flesh out underwritten personalities – in Warbringer, Bardugo has soared beyond that and made Diana fully realised.

You can read the opening of the novel here!

Interested? Get it here.

What to read next:

Thank you kindly to Penguin Platform for sending me this copy, at which I screamed at very loudly.

An Asperger’s Adventure: The Blue Bottle Mystery (Graphic Novel) | 1 Minute Reviews

The Blue Bottle Mystery was originally written by Kathy Hoopmann, and has been adapted into a Graphic Novel by illustrator Rachel Smith and comic book author Mike Medaglia.

513llktocwl-_sy344_bo1204203200_

The story follows Ben, who is struggling – his teacher is always angry at him, his dad doesn’t understand him, he is bullied. Only his best friend Andy seems to understand him.

07

When Ben and Andy discover a mysterious blue bottle in the school yard, they unleash magic on the world. The story also follows Ben’s diagnosis of Asperger’s and his family’s journey of understanding.

Rachel Smith’s illustrations help bring Hoopmann’s story to life with bright, eye catching illustrations.

bbm2_0216

I really enjoyed The Blue Bottle Mystery, which is ultimately a heartwarming story of understanding people who think differently from you.

Suitable for children aged 7+, or younger if parents read the story with them. I strongly recommend parents and children read this together, especially if you know someone who is going through the diagnostic process.

Interested? Buy it here.

Want to know what else I’ve read about autism or features autistic characters? Check out The Essential Autie Book List.

What to read next:

 

Escaping grief with words

All has been relatively quiet on here partly due to a busy work period, followed by the death of my wonderful uncle Quentin. He went peacefully, as an octogenarian, so I am thankful for that much. It has hit me very hard.

For those who know me in real life, or some other semblance of social media, you’ll know that I spent much of the last year in therapy to learn to cope with my mental health problems, and get myself back on track for being a functioning human. I’ve been doing relatively okay at this, with your usual ups and downs, thanks to skills from CBT, a heavy dosage of happy-making-medicine from my GP and a lot of love and patience from those around me.

One of my focusses was learning how to feel big emotions. I’m classically avoident when it comes to big emotions – something that surprised a lot of people and even myself because I’d gotten so good at kidding myself into thinking I’d ever processed anything in my life.

With my uncle’s passing, came the crushing wave of grief, something that I’d never let myself properly feel. This sounds ever so melodramatic, like I’m the only one whose lost someone, but stick with me, it ends up somewhere. Basically, I’m learning to grieve for the first time and to not dissociate away into my safe space of blurred non reality or bury my feelings. It’s been really hard, because my regimented care of my daily mental health has fallen a little by the wayside at the same time. I’ve basically been a bit of a blank, sad mess.

While not permitting myself to venture into a separate reality my brain escapes into when it gets a little freaked out, I permitted myself to escape into stories. Reading quietly, with a warm cup of tea, has always been a safe space for me. When things were hard when I was small, the library was my haven and my bunk bed. When I go home next week for the funeral, I promise to dig out some childhood photos of me with my nose in a book as proof of this.

So I suppose this blog was heading towards me telling you about the good things I’ve read, now that I’ve told you about the bad things that are around. While I usually read a lot, I’ve noticed my consumption has gone up a lot since the start of May. These books are some I finished and piled up in the same place in our house, so I could be sure they were read in May.

Maybooks

Bring Up the Bodies is the superb follow up to Wolf Hall, a book that starts out slow (partly because it turns out I know nothing about how Henry Tudor dismantled the churches) but gets you hooked into Cromwell’s snarking, calculating mind. Brilliant stuff. The Secret History followed this up with a on-the-edge-of-your-seat story of how obsession can lead to darkness in a group of proto-hipsters at a small university; don’t let my poor explanation of it put you off. The Awakening is just fantastic, and upsettingly short, but basically a story about a woman in the late 1800s saying “well sod it, my husband’s a bit shit, I’m off” which I appreciate.

From there came the comforting stories of Tove Jansson – her wistful words are always there when I need them most, having read the Summer Book at another time of need. Not pictured is Tales from Moomin Valley because I’ve been reading bites of it in bed, and only commit them to photograph when I’ve finished.

I was lucky enough to see Woolf Works at the Royal Opera House this month with some wonderful people – that’s right, a ballet based on Virginia Woolf. The Lighthouse was the next book of hers on my list, but not one of the books performed – I look forward to trying to understand how Orlando the book links to the spangly in-and-out-of-light whirring dance on the stage. I love delving into Virginia’s stylistic tones, committing a full day to indulge myself. It feels indulgent. It’s what I needed.

Easily the most whimsical book I’ve read was the Salmon Who Dared to Leap Higher, which is a beautiful little fable by Korean poet Anh Do-Hyeon. It is literally the story of a salmon migrating upriver, but it is also more than that. He speaks to the river, he falls in love, he questions life’s purpose. There is something a little Jansson about it, but that may be just because I’ve been filling my mind with philosophical Moomin tales. I recommend it, wholeheartedly.

In fact I recommend all these books.

In the middle of these comforting words was “Feynman”,  the graphic novel biography of Dr. Richard Feynman, eminent physicist and astounding mind. While it challenged my knowledge of physics (which has always been astonishingly poor) but it made me want to understand everything, which I feel is a key part of the process. Feynman, like other popular scientists like Dr. Oliver Sachs, had a fascinating colourful life, and it is really worth a read.

As I began to come out of the lowest lows, I treated myself to Supermutant Magic Academy because it seemed like it was going to be the thing I really needed at that time, and it was. Jillian Tamaki’s one page comics about a group of mutant students is breathstealingly funny – especially if you’ve played D&D a few times though this only applies to a couple of the comics. It’s also really touching, with the rawness of first loves and heartbreak. I’m already considering reading it again.

These books kept me going – just keep reading. A few more sentences.

Honourable mention goes to The Shepherd’s Life which rescued me from having a panic attack or worse on the Strand last week – I ducked into Waterstones repeating “just get the Shepherd” under my breath, bought it, and sat quietly in the upstairs cafe looking longingly at the hills of the Lake District that exist in my fondest childhood memories. I’ll write about that more when I’m done.

I’m not sure if this post was coherent or even had a point, but this is the end of it.

Reading Round Up: Graphic novels about girls oh my

Graphic novels were a thing that happened to me when I started my masters degree, moving closer to one of my top nerd pals who started slipping me copies of Walking Dead and Preacher. I knew I’d like them, given the opportunity to engage and a little guidance from where to start – same for tabletop board games.

Entering the world of comic books can be admittedly tricky for anyone – what do you mean there are a number of reboots – but when you are facing the hyped up gore or sexualisation of women or plain dodgy writing, it gets a little tricker. At first I kept wondering how on earth I was going to remember to buy those singles every week (hint just buy the volumes, if you have patience to wait).

I’ve been lucky enough to read some excellent books written by women about women in the last few months, so let me share them with you.

msmarvel3featuredimageFirst up is Ms. Marvel, penned by G. Willow Wilson, which I came to with admittedly not much more knowledge of Marvel than beyond the movies. Kamala Khan is a muslim Pakistani-American teenage girl, growing up in New Jersey, trying to balance her newfound powers with the expectations of her parents. The stories are great fun and actually laugh out loud funny – I especially love the first story in volume 2 which involves her and X-Men’s Wolverine wandering around a sewer. She is refreshing in that she has dilemmas about life that can be related to, but still kicks but really hard. So far there are two volumes out (all those little single issues collected into two decent sized books) which you can devour, snorting at the references to Harry Potter. Volume one is £7.89 on Wordery.

rat-queensStaying with “girls who kick butt”, Rat Queens is your fantasy RPG Dungeons and Dragons roaming party of bandits but who are all funny, intelligent women. None of them are rats, like I had thought. But it’s still good! It’s also written by a man (so probably should have been excluded given my premise of girls by girls by idgaf). I have so far read the first volume which has some amazing artwork and a great storyline. As a casual D&D player and lover of all-things-rpg in video games, I often long for stories that explore different kind of women banding together. Not only are the four main characters different personality wise, but there is a diversity of body shape and skin tones which is refreshing. All the characters have sexual agency, which is also refreshing! I have genuinely fallen in love with Hannah, Dee, Violet and Betty. The first volume is a cheapie cheap £5.73 on Wordery! The 2nd volume is about twice the price, but you expect this with graphic novels – they lure you in with low prices and misandrist jokes and well here you are, in a fort of books.

PERSEPOLIS465FMoving away from the series format to self contained novels, I’ve been lucky to read some beautiful ones. No bookshelf is complete without Marjane Sartrapi’s Persepolis, an autobiography of her childhood growing up in Iran. If you don’t read the book, at least watch the movie, but really really you should read the book. My knowledge of the history of Iran has certainly expanded, and it is a history you should explore. Marjane’s childhood stubbornness reminds me of being a small girl, very set in my mind of what was right and wrong.

How could you not love Windy though
How could you not love Windy though

A lesser known treasure (to me at least) has been This One Summer, a sort-of growing up story between two girls, Rose and Windy, who is possibly one of my favourite people ever. Windy will call you out when you say something that parrots the patriarchy or is judgey. The story is gently paced but melancholy and hopeful, and makes me long for swimming in lakes. It is written by Jillian Tamaki and drawn by Mariko Tamaki, who have written a number of other books that I have my eye on.

If you like creepy as heck books then you should consider picking up Through the Woods by Emily Carroll which has some of the most terrifying images and stories I’ve ever read. To a lesser extent I also recommend the short-but-not-at-all-sweet Gosh Comics published Dreadful Wind and Rain by Isabel Greenberg, which is a short, haunting tale about two sisters told through seriously beautiful imagery and is only £6 from Gosh!.

Other honourable mentions that aren’t books I’ve read recently but will probably appeal to you if the above does: Seconds by Brian Lee O’Malley is an homage to turning 30 and not knowing if you’ve done the right things to get there; In Real Life uses World of Warcraft style online MMOs to reach across topics such as poverty, culture clashes, and adolescence and is written by the wonderful Cory Doctorow; anything by the wonderful Jamie McKelvie and Kieren Gillen (Young AvengersWicked and the Divine and Phonogram); the Saga series by Bryan K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples.

If you are in London, I recommend popping to the delightful Gosh! Comics in Soho to pick these up. The staff are always wonderfully helpful and attentive, and the huge array of excellent books on display in the central table represent some of the best books in store – I’ve found that picking up one of these at random has often ended well. They also have a really good sized selection of zines and small press comic books for you to enjoy, which also make excellent gifts.

What have you read recently? Share your faves in the comments!!