book reviews, Graphic Novels, spoiler free

Finding Home Vol. 1: The Traveller by Hari Conner

Book Review

40922848._SY475_Finding Home Vol. 1: The Traveller by Hari Conner

Rating: XXXXX

Published June 2018 by Hari Draws Books

“It’s like there’s things that haunt you. Ghosts of feelings that follow you around. Echos of memories you can’t get rid of. A wall between you and the world.”

Finding Home is a slow-burn romance/drama comic set in a fantasy world, with a focus on nature, emotion and the small moments that change how you feel about someone.

Having abandoned his wood nymph family and spent a disastrous few years failing to fit in among humans, Chepi now travels alone, avoiding making friends or staying anywhere too long. That is, until he ends up on the road with someone he can’t seem to keep his distance from – Janek.

As the story begins, Janek just wants to get home and is happy to have a travelling companion on the way. But the closer they become, the more he’s drawn to Chepi, and the more he finds out about his nightmares, magic and troubling past…

I’ve been captivated by Hari’s art whenever I’ve come across them at MCM London and I kept seeing mentions of their graphic novel “Finding Home” and although it was on my list of things to get I often found that it had been so popular over the convention weekend that it was sold out when I went to get a copy on my breaks etc. When the Kickstarter for Vol.2 went live I backed it immediately and ordered myself a copy of Vol. 1 as well at last! I’ve been rammed with book reviews and other things the past few months since I received them but I finally made room for them a few weeks ago and took to spending a little time each night reading Vol. 1 and speedily falling in love with Janek and Chepi.

The artwork throughout is incredible, the landscapes and forests especially are my favourites, they honestly feel magical. The colours used throughout, those used to illustrate past memories, in particular, were done exceedingly well and added such an extra layer and feel to them. The only artwork issue I had at all was that I’m not great at reading some forms of cursive and had to spend a good amount of time trying to decipher a couple of parts that were written in letter form as although the handwriting looks beautiful it did take a few goes to get any good at reading it.

The story is a slow one and it could be said not a great deal happens but this isn’t an action-filled book. This is a soft narrative, slow burn of a tale and the pace itself just feels like it flows so naturally along with Chepi and Janek’s personalities. Time is taken to lay seeds, to ask questions, to hint at things and elaborate little by little as the characters get to know each other. One particular detail I absolutely adored was the fact that when Chepi feels different emotions strongly it seems to manifest in the form of different blooms throughout his hair, it’s just such a perfect little touch.  Although in a magical land, Chepi’s emotions feel so real and raw I was utterly transfixed, not to mention Janek’s caring, calm nature. Even when he’s a little flustered, nervous or worried Janek honestly feels like such a soothing presence and without giving too much away, his actions later in the book made me want to weep with joy because he’s honestly the sweetest soul I’ve ever encountered in fiction and I adore him with my whole heart.

The first and second volumes of Finding Home are available via Hari’s Etsy which you can find right here. Don’t forget to check out their other books and items too!

There have been hints of something brewing in the narrative past the characters and I feel like we might get some answers in the second book as well as hopefully Janek and Chepi opening up to each other a bit more, I’ll report back next week with my review for volume two!

 

 

 

book reviews, spoiler free

Heartstopper Volume One

40495957Heartstopper by Alice Oseman

Rating: XXXXX

Published February 7th 2019 by Hodder Children’s Books

“I have a six-year-old brother. Mario Kart is my life. And you get to be good at real sports. I get to be good at fake ones.”

“You’re good at everything, you nerd!”

Charlie Spring is in Year 10 at Truham Grammar School for Boys. The past year hasn’t been too great, but at least he’s not being bullied anymore, and he’s sort of got a boyfriend, even if he’s kind of mean and only wants to meet up in secret.

Nick Nelson is in Year 11 and on the school rugby team. He’s heard a little about Charlie – the kid who was outed last year and bullied for a few months – but he’s never had the opportunity to talk to him. That is, until the start of January, in which Nick and Charlie are placed in the same form group and made to sit together.

They quickly become friends, and soon Charlie is falling hard for Nick, even though he doesn’t think he has a chance. But love works in surprising ways, and sometimes good things are waiting just around the corner…

I’ve been reading books for new releases and blog tours etc pretty solidly for the past two months and today I decided to finally take a day off and try out one of the books that have been patiently waiting for me that aren’t bound by release deadlines etc and today felt like a day that definitely needed a splash of Heartstopper, just looking at this book makes me happy. It’s pink spine, the bright but not painful colours of the cover and Alice’s distinctive simple yet powerful style of art brightened my day before I even read the first page. I met Alice at the Quiet at the End of the World launch event last month and having not read any of her books before I decided Heartstopper would be a good one to start with as it had already caught my attention on Twitter plenty of times, turns out I think this book may be considered a gateway drug to more Oseman.

in 2014 Alice Oseman released her first novel, Solitare which featured a sixteen-year-old girl called Tori who had a brother called Charlie who had a loving, committed boyfriend called Nick. In 2015, she released an ebook called Nick and Charlie which looked at their relationship a year on from the events of Solitare and found herself thinking about the backstory behind their relationship prior to Solitare and although she tried many times to write it as a novel she found it never really quite worked until it occurred to her that was because Nick and Charlie’s relationship didn’t fit a novel and instead on September 1st 2016, created the Heartstopper comic Tumblr page and uploaded the first eleven pages of Nick and Charlies story.

“There’s no gradual rise and fall. Nick and Charlie’s story isn’t like that. Nick and Charlie’s story is made up of fragments. Episodes. There are episodes of their lives; small stories that makeup something larger. The story of them meeting. The story of them becoming friends. The story of them falling in love, becoming boyfriends, finding their way through a new relationship, fighting back against mental illness. It doesn’t work as a novel because there’s no overarching drama – because it’s just real life. Just one normal, loving relationship between two people. And so what I realised was that the best way to tell this story would be through a webcomic.”

Then in 2018, Alice ran a Kickstarter to collect the first two chapters in a physical edition which was also later picked up and published through Hodder Children’s books with a volume two due to release in July this year! Alice also updates the webcomic online, three times a week and honestly dear reader you should be honoured that I’m even sitting at my desk writing this review because I desperately just want to devour every single chapter of this story right now but this book was so brilliant I need to tell everyone. So if you somehow haven’t heard of Heartstopper before now, consider yourself informed and get on it because it is an absolute gift.

Just thinking about this book makes me want to cry. It’s beautiful, it’s funny and it’s heartwarming and so just SO DAMN WHOLESOME I want to turn it into a blanket and wrap myself in it forever. Honestly, it’s just so hard to describe the warm feeling in my chest that reading this book gave me. I loved the familiar Brittish setting and phrases etc, even down to their school uniform which was pretty similar to the one I wore (gulp) so many years ago which gave it a nice extra level of relatability for me. Watching Nick and Charlie grow as friends and the interactions they have were some of my favourite parts of Volume one and I couldn’t honestly just reading about them hanging out all day. I could go on and on about Nick and Charlie but I want to make sure I mention that not only do I love the natural feeling evolution of their relationship I also love what they feel separate from each other as well, I came out / was outed at school and went through some confusing feelings at the time as well as going on to have crushes on “the straight one” as it were so this all feels startlingly real and it’s just handled so well and as Alice herself as stated, it’s just real life. Also there’s Nellie the doggo and she is the best thing that ever graced any page ever and I love her.

I’ve read a lot of manga, comics and other graphic novels in my time that I found the format enjoyable but terribly morish because it was such an easy afternoon read, I seriously considered reading the entire thing over again once I’d finished it the first time. Not only is Alice’s art style absolutely adorable and an absolute joy to look at it’s so evocative and she really knows how to use this format well, from simple panels or backgrounds used to portray emotions, certain angles and switches as well as the magic of the simple page turn she does a fantastic job of making these techniques as important and as part of the story as the art and words itself.

I figured I would wait until the next volume came out in July to carry on with Nick and Charlie’s story and although I will certainly be buying it when it does, I won’t like dear reader, I currently have the Tumblr page open and ready with chapter three to read once I’ve finished this review. You can check out the webcomic here. Alice posts updates for free but I highly recommend supporting her via Patreon if able or Tapas if not, more information is available on her Tumblr page. Also, just a note that if you haven’t read Solitare there are no spoilers in Heartstopper for it, as I mentioned it appears Heartstopper is a gateway drug and I’m about six words away from ordering it myself.

book reviews, spoiler free

Once and Future

36233085Once and Future by Amy Rose Capetta and Cori McCarthy

Rating: XXXXX

Published: March 26th by Rock the Boat

“So tell me, forty second King Arthur, do you believe your fate is to unite humankind?”

“My fate…” Ari gasped, “…is mine.”

When Ari crash-lands on Old Earth and pulls a magic sword from its ancient resting place, she is revealed to be the newest reincarnation of King Arthur. Then she meets Merlin, who has aged backward over the centuries into a teenager, and together they must break the curse that keeps Arthur coming back. Their quest? Defeat the cruel, oppressive government and bring peace and equality to all humankind.

No pressure.

So this is the part where I usually quite calmly talk about how I discovered this book (I was stalking the Rock the Boat Twitter feed for news about Aurora Rising arcs) what interested me about and made me want to read it (all of the things) and occasionally how and where I received it from (drooling over it via Twitter, thank you so much to the lovely people at Rock the Boat for gifting me a copy in exchange for an honest review) but honestly I just want to yell SWORDS, JOUSTING, SPACESHIPS, STRONG QUEER WOMEN, TEENAGE MERLIN, GORGEOUS FLUIDS AND NON BINARIES, MAGIC, ANGST, SEXUAL TENSION AND DID I MENTION THIS IS MOSTLY SET IN SPACE BECAUSE YES.

I’m genuinely not sure where to start with this review because as I suspected this is a book I really want to scream and shout about. The characters are all so unique and different with different strengths and beautifully tragic flaws. On the back of my arc copy one of the things this book is likened to is Mass Effect (my favourite game series) and I can totally get behind that because Ari and her ‘knights’ feel like an amazing, dysfunctional family in much the same way as the crew of the Normandy in that they all have their own goals and most of the time those goals line up but not always and that can make things messy, especially when you know each other but you’re not really sure you know them enough to trust them as much as you should. The differing interactions between the characters here feel just the right kinds of tense and it really gives weight to those moments.

I hate to say it so bluntly but this book is hot. Honestly, there are some fantastic moments that pretty much took my breath away but without being crude or even bordering on erotica. I love that pretty much everyone is a little “thirsty” because honestly they’re all beautiful and fairly confident with their sexualities and there isn’t much of any pussyfooting around these moments apart from one AMAZING almost kiss that blew me away. I’m obviously not saying that everyone needs to be like this in their day to day lives but there is certainly something very liberating and refreshing about how comfortable these kind of moments we see in this book are.

While on the topic of sexuality one of my favourite things about this book is how diverse it is, the main character is pansexual and as someone who is pan themselves I cannot explain how pleased I am and how much it means to me to see this kind of rep as we’re often just lumped into gay/straight/bisexual and it’s exhausting, we’ve been totally spoiled with Ari, she’s such an interesting, complex bad-ass and I’m honestly pretty much in love with her myself. Not only do we have a wide range of sexualities it’s also not made a huge deal out of and it isn’t used as any kind of plot point, they just are because that’s how real life works. This book is chock full of amazing characters that are gay, pan, straight, disabled, fluid, cis, non-binary, black, aromantic, mixed heritage, lanky, muscley and curvy and it really makes me yearn for something like this kind of acceptance for all – just without the evil mega-corporation, please.

I immensely enjoyed that Once and Future is not only a kind of parallel of sorts to the King Arthur tale but it also manages to completely turn it on its head and look at from different perspectives. I know the story of Arthur, Merlin, Camelot and the Knights of the Round Table is something that has been done and done and done again but honestly, you will never find another story like this, it feels so fresh and unique, not just because of the gender twist but the heart of the story just feels so very new.

The plot is an absolute ride, although I do think there are certainly some pacing issues and moments where I found myself thinking, “huh…what…how did we get here? How did this happen? Did I miss something?” as well as feeling like there were a few plot holes here and there but having spoken to Amy and Cori, I’m told there were A LOT of copy edits due to the ARCs needing to be done and sent out so early so I’m really looking forward to having another read through when my finished copy arrives today (if it hasn’t already because I’m writing to you from the not so distant past) because even WITH the small issues I had I loved this book to the stars and back so I can only imagine how I’ll feel about the complete finished product.

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Once and Future absolutely blew my mind, it riled me up, it crushed my heart then it brought me back, shoved a sword in my hand and it told me to go save the world.

Once and Future is out RIGHT NOW and just in case you hadn’t already preordered it or ordered it today then may I just say again…SWORDS, JOUSTING, SPACESHIPS, STRONG QUEER WOMEN, TEENAGE MERLIN, GORGEOUS FLUIDS AND NON BINARIES, MAGIC, ANGST, SEXUAL TENSION AND DID I MENTION THIS IS MOSTLY SET IN SPACE BECAUSE YES.

 

 

 

#SixforSunday, spoiler free

S4S – LGBT Books I still need to read

Another Sunday, another Six for Sunday! This weeks prompt is LGBT books I still need to read, this will be a super easy one because there are LOADS and the six I’ve chosen below are just from the books I already own…As with my other posts of a similar vein this month, these are books that I consider to be LGBT because they feature LGBT characters and not necessarily because said books focus solely on the sexuality of the characters.

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A Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzie Lee
The moment I heard this had sassy, bi rep I brought it pretty much without question. I’m excited to get around to it and it’s sequel but it’s one of those books that I just haven’t managed to get around to yet.

Once and Future by Cori McCarthy and Amy Rose Capetta
This was on my TBR for this month but my review and blog tour schedule has been a lot more hectic than I had first anticipated and although I’m enjoying my current read, I’ve not been able to dedicate a lot of time to it. Once and Future has a pansexual main character who ends up wielding Excalibur and as someone who is pan and spent every waking moment as a kid pretending I was a badass lady night with a sword (apart from Xena phase be then Buffy ofc) and I am so ready for this, having to schedule my reads like a boring grown up with deadlines is killing me!

The Nevernight Chronicles by Jay Kristoff
One of my besties has been on at me FOREVER to read these books and I agree, I really want to read them and I did start one but just couldn’t get into it at the time, it sounds completely on brand for me but I’ve just not had time or been in the right mood to get around to it yet. I’m determined to get around to them this year.

Carry on by Rainbow Rowell
So I’ve had Carry on for age after buying it and having Rainbow sign it at my very first “proper” book event. I finally got around to reading and really enjoying Fangirl and I know Carry on is definitely something I will enjoy but I think I’ve kept putting it off due to hype and just not being in the right mood to read it but with Wayward Sons coming out pretty soon I figure I better finally get around to it.

The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers
I’ve been hearing SUCH good things about this series and loved hearing Kelly speak on the space panel at YALC last year alongside Lauren James and Sasha Alsberg and I’ve been fascinated by her series ever since but to sound like a broken record, I’ve just not been able to get around to it yet. It’s also not helped by the fact that I’ve been avoiding starting any new series of books right now for fear of becoming hooked. Soon. I promise.

The Shades of Magic Trilogy by V.E Schwab
Another book everyone has been telling me to read and another one that suffers from the same problems The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet, I’ve not had the time, I’ve been too scared to start a new series AND I’ve not been quite in the right mood for it.

I’m very very aware of just how many great books I have to read right now and once I’m caught up on reviews of new the slew of new releases coming out over the coming months I’m diving straight in with one of the amazing books from this list, without a doubt. Are there any on this list you have yet to read but want to? Have you read some of these and enjoyed them? Let me know if you can think of any more great LGBT books I need to add to my TBR!

 

#SixforSunday

S4S – Favourite LGBT Characters

This week has gone so unbelievably fast, still, Sunday has arrived and that means another Six for Sunday post. Following the LGBT theme for the month Steph from A Little but a lot has chosen a prompt of “Favourite LGBT characters” this week. As with last week I’ve found this a little difficult because of the lack of LGBT rep in a lot of the things I had (not on purpose as I”m LGBTQ myself), the fact that sometimes I just forget who is canonically LGBTQ because honestly, I assume everyone is bi or pan unless stated somehow, as to be honest as that’s the sexuality I identify with and that to be a characters sexuality doesn’t define a character. I apologise for those of you who read last weeks post as this will feature books from a few of the books I mentioned so these may not be a surprise but I hope you’ll still enjoy! Some small spoilers below, I’ve tried to mention they’re incoming with italics beforehand to help you get through without spoiling anything you don’t want spoiled.

Ballister Blackheart from Nimona by Noelle Stevenson
As mentioned last week, there are a lot of different relationships in Nimona Blackheart has been in one of those that at the beginning of the story is not in a good place, especially when they’re trying to kill or have each other arrested. Blackheart deals with feelings he still clearly has the same way I probably would if I was an eccentric type supervillain – petty revenge and name calling with a side of longing glances He’s a fantastic character and he has some great sides to him.

Magnus Bane from the Shadowhunter books by Cassandra Clare
At the risk of repeating myself from lasts weeks post, Magnus helped me to realise my own sexual identity and that it had a name etc and I think he’s been a great form of rep for those of us out there who needed that. In addition, however, he’s also a great character who has flaws like any other but he ultimately goes out of his way to help those he loves and cares for and protects those who can’t help themselves. He’s also fun and very and open about his sexual orientation and past relationships over his very long life, not to mention he’s super sassy and I’m all for that.

Clove from The Last Beginning by Lauren James
(Spoilers for The Next Together below)
I adored Kat and Matthew in The Next Together and although they are featured this book focuses on one thing better, their daughter. Clove embodies the best (and worst) attributes of her parents. She’s smart and impulsive, quick-witted, curious and confident and does what she needs to do to make sure things are right. She’s a fantastic character and I hope we might get some more cameos from her in Lauren’s future books.

Kit Thornwood from Overlord by Sian Jefferson
Kit is adorable and full of hidden courage and I love him. Even when he’s technically a dark Overlord with a grand tower and an army of minions at his command he somehow he still manages to be an absolute cinnamon roll who just doesn’t feel like he fits in. I genuinely just want to keep him safe forever.

Stormer from Jem and the Holograms
(slight relationship spoilers)
I already went on and on about how much I love the relationship between Stormer and Kimber and this week I want to show my appreciation for Stormer. Despite the girl she likes being in a rival band she (quite rightly) doesn’t let this deter her and even when they aren’t together Stormer keeps the rest of her bandmates in check and tries to get them to act like decent human beings, she’s such a lovely character with a brilliant heart who feels the conflict between bands deeply, not just because of her feelings towards Kimber but because of the way it changes her friends too.

Emily Mather from A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness
I’ve only read the first book in the all souls series but in it, we’re introduced to Dianas’s Aunt Sarah and her partner Emily and Sarah is an enjoyable firecracker of a character but it’s Emily I really love. She’s a brilliant yin to Sarah’s yang and she doesn’t try to change Sarah but loves her for who she is and weathers her moods more than tries to temper them. She also clearly loves and cares for Diana as if she were her own child and when they begin to get a lot of company at the Bishop household she still manages to be warm and welcoming, she’s a brilliant spark of light and one of my favourite side characters in the series so far.

#SixforSunday

#S4S – Favourite LGBT Reads

Happy Six for Sunday! This weeks prompt from the wonderful Steph over at A little but a lot is Favourite LGBT reads and I’m ashamed that despite being a member of the LGBT community myself I’ve read precious few LGBT books myself. It doesn’t seem to be something that’s focused on much in fantasy which is one of the two main genres I read, Science Fiction is a little better but I’m not sure I can think of many books that I’ve read that would be considered “LGBT” books so I’ll do my best to list the ones I would consider to feature LGBT elements in them. Feel free to reccomend all the good Fantasy and Sci-Fi LGBTQ+ books though, especially f/f or bi/pan/poly rep.

Just another note actually before we begin, a thought perhaps but what do you consider an “LGBT” read? Although they are important for those who need them I am often not at all interested in stories where characters “queereness” is the be all and end all of the story. As I’ve said those kind of books do need to exist because there are people out there who they will help and that will find themselves in those books but I really prefer the books where there are characters who are LGBTQ plus but it’s a normal natural thing and is not a pivotal plot point, obviously this is only personal opinion and everyone enjoys different kinds of books but I wanted to make that clear that is one of the reasons my list of “LGBT” reads probably aren’t considered as such because the sexuality of the characters aren’t the only plot point and I don’t want to diminish others love for books where that is the case at all but rather just wanted to explain my choices.

1. The Last Begining by Lauren James
This time bending book feautures Clove and her sometimes girlfriend Ella and was one of my favourite reads last year, I can’t say too much about why I love their relationship throughout this book without giving away spoilers but lets just say

2. Jem and the Holgrams by Kelly Thompson
I was a big fan of the Jem and the Holograms TV show when I was younger (showing my age!) and became a little obsessed with it. I was so excited to find out it was being made into a comic (we don’t talk about the “film”). The artwork is bold , beautiful and full of colour and the story is compelling and very much in the feel of the original show while still feeling updated and I’m gutted that it wasn’t a show instead but I’ve still loved every minute of it. Among some of the new changes I’ve enjoyed is the relationship between Kimber and Stormer, a star-crossed lovers tale with each being from rival bands. They are an absolutely adorable couple who adore each other but find it hard to be together with the tensions building between the two groups. They are easily one of my favourite couples in fiction.

3. The Shadowhunter Chronicles by Cassandra Clare
I feel like this one may be a little controversial somehow, purely because despite the relationship between Alec and Magnus Bane being one that really touched people, a lot of others feel it’s “over done” now somehow and that Cassie is just “milking it” to get positive attention. That’s not how I feel personally, although Alec and Magnus is a great step forward, especially at a time where same sex relationships were not often featured in YA for me I loved the fact that Magnus Bane was (at least) bisexual and this really helped me at a time where I was confused that I liked girls but I couldn’t be gay because I liked boys as well. Magnus sort of became a window to realising I didn’t have to be gay or straight as it wasn’t something I had ever really known or talked about. Now in the Dark Artifices we have all sort s of characters and relationships including trans and poly which I think have been done well and really appreciate seeing normalised in fiction.

4. Rat Queens by Kurtis J. Wiebe
Betty the smidgen is pretty much my favourite member of the Rat Queens (although I do love them all) and as with most of these on my list I love how easy and seamlessly her sexuality is introduced and plays out in these books. It’s very simple and sweet with just the right amount of fluff for my tastes.

5. Vicious and Vengeful by V.E Schwab
This might sound like a strange one but I was convinced during Vicious that Victor and Eli were besotted with each other even if they wouldn’t act on it or show it. The way Eli became obsessed with hunting down Victor just really seemed to have this…edge to it. In Vengeful it became apparent and although not done as smoothly as it could have been done, it was canonical acknowledged that Victor was Asexual (ace) and this felt like it made so much sense to me.

6. Nimona by Noelle Stevenson
By the looks of this list I read and enjoy a lot more LGBT comics than I do traditional books. Nimona is probably my absolute favourite on this list for many many reasons but one of them is the way it handles LGBT relationships so well. We often see LGBT couples possibly going through some kind of hardship and then they get back together and they live happily ever after. In Nimona we. See a huge variety of couples, some who are very happy together but also those who fight, or break up or flirt or just want something casual or different and I think thats another really important angle that needs to be shown as well. This book is absolutely a must read. Its a masterpiece.

Thank you for checking out my six for Sunday post! I think this may have inspired me to do a longer post. On a similar subject so keep an eye out for that coming soon! I hope you’ve all had a fantastic week and don’t forget to let me know if you’ve taken part in todays prompt as well so I can check it out!

P.S Wanted to give an honourable mention to Carry On! I haven’t finished it yet but I feel like if I had it probably would have made this list.