Three great graphic novels – The Alchemist, The Good Earth, The Kite Runner

Title: The Alchemist: A Graphic Novel, Author: Paulo CoelhoThe Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. Finished 9-21-18, rating 4/5, graphic novel, 208 pages, pub. 1996

Graphic novel adapted by Derek Ruiz and illustrated by Daniel Sampere.

Paulo Coelho’s masterpiece tells the magical story of Santiago, an Andalusian shepherd boy who yearns to travel in search of a worldly treasure as extravagant as any ever found.

The story of the treasures Santiago finds along the way teaches us, as only a few stories can, about the essential wisdom of listening to our hearts, learning to read the omens strewn along life’s path, and, above all, following our dreams.  from Goodreads

I’ve always wanted to read The Alchemist and decided to give the graphic novel a try first. I was concerned when I saw the depictions of women in the first few pages.

Some questionably sexual panels from The Alchemist graphic novel

But I soldiered on and luckily the illustrator’s dream girls didn’t last past a few pages.  Still…  Anyway, I liked this parable adventure story and enjoyed it for what it was.  It didn’t change my life or world-view, but it was a quick enjoyable story of a boy who was told that dreams can become reality if you believe.  I probably won’t read the original, but am glad I know the story of this modern classic.


The Good EarthThe Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck. Finished 9-27-18, 4/5 stars, graphic novel, 144 pages, pub. 2017

Graphic novel adapted and illustrated by Nick Bertozzi

Pearl Buck’s 1931 Pulitzer Prize–winning classic about the rise and fall of Chinese villagers before World War I comes to life in this graphic novel by Nick Bertozzi.

In The Good Earth, Pearl S. Buck paints an indelible portrait of China in the 1920s, when the last emperor reigned and the vast political and social upheavals of the twentieth century were but distant rumblings. This story of the honest farmer Wang Lung and his selfless wife O-Lan is must reading to fully appreciate the sweeping changes that have occurred in the lives of the Chinese people during the last century.  from Goodreads

I was never all that interested in reading the classic novel, but I’m so glad I gave this a chance because I really enjoyed it.  The monochromatic illustrations (pinks and blues with the occasional red) worked and set a mood.  I liked Wang Lung, until I didn’t and then I really didn’t.  His tireless wife, O-Lan, one of the more sympathetic characters I’ve come across in a while.  My biggest complaint was that nowhere did it say that this was part one of a trilogy, so there was no ending. I will most likely pick up the next book to see what happens.


Title: The Kite Runner Graphic Novel, Author: Khaled HosseiniThe Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini. Finished 9-26-18, 4/5, graphic novel, 132 pages, pub. 2011

Illustrated by Fabio Celoni and Mirka Andolfo. Adapted by Tommaso Valsecchi

Amir is the son of a wealthy Kabul merchant, a member of the ruling caste of Pashtuns. Hassan, his servant and constant companion, is a Hazara, a despised and impoverished caste. Their uncommon bond is torn by Amir’s choice to abandon his friend amidst the increasing ethnic, religious, and political tensions of the dying years of the Afghan monarchy, wrenching them far apart. But so strong is the bond between the two boys that Amir journeys back to a distant world, to try to right past wrongs against the only true friend he ever had.   from Goodreads

This book was heartbreaking and I can only imagine that the novel is so much more so.  I don’t think I could willingly bring that much pain into my life right now, so I’m glad that I read the graphic novel. Children exposed to horrors they can’t understand.  Ultimately, it is a story friendship with the lesson of not waiting to mend your fences.

 

 

 

The Night Bookmobile, Night Shift, Herding Cats – 3 graphic books worth reading

Title: The Night Bookmobile, Author: Audrey NiffeneggerThe Night Bookmobile by Audrey Niffenegger. Finished 9-28-18, rating 4/5, graphic short story, 40 pages, pub. 2010

First serialised in the Guardian, The Night Bookmobile tells the story of a young woman who one night encounters a mysterious disappearing mobile library that happens to stock every book she has ever read. Seeing her history and her most intimate self in this library, she embarks on a search for the bookmobile. Over time, her search turns into an obsession as she longs to be reunited with her own collection and her memories.  from Goodreads

I loved this sad, odd little tale of a woman who loves her books.  One night she discovers a bookmobile on a darkened street and walks in to discover everything she’s ever read in her life.  Dazzled and amazed she dedicates her life to reading more books to fill the bookmobile and searching for the magical library on wheels.  What a fun concept!  It was too short and the illustrations were just okay, but I loved it.  Just the right mix of fairy tale and cautionary tale.


Title: Night Shift, Author: Debi GlioriNight Shift by Debi Gliori. Finished 9-28-18, rating 4.5/5, graphic book about depression, 32 pages, pub. 2017

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.    from Goodreads

I was so moved by this powerful book about depression.  In only 32 pages of images I felt the crushing weight of depression.  I understood it in a new way.  This is a must read for anyone who loves someone who is suffering or for those who feel alone and don’t know where to turn.


Title: Herding Cats: A Sarah's Scribbles Collection, Author: Sarah AndersenHerding Cats by Sarah Anderson. Finished 9-28-18, 4/5 stars, graphic nonfiction, 108 pages, pub. 2018

With characteristic wit and charm, Sarah Andersen’s third collection of comics and illustrated personal essays offers a survival guide for frantic modern life: from the importance of avoiding morning people, to Internet troll defense 101, to the not-so-life-changing futility of tidying up. But when all else fails and the world around you is collapsing, make a hot chocolate, count the days until Halloween, and snuggle up next to your furry beacon of hope.    from Goodreads

This the third collection, but I’m not familiar with the author or the first two and this book was so quirky and fresh that I had a smile on my face the whole time.  Lots of the reviews on Goodreads include some of the panels and you should definitely take a look.  I plan on checking out her earlier books.

Last Words by Michael Koryta

Title: Last Words (Mark Novak Series #1), Author: Michael KorytaLast Words. Finished 5-30-18, 4/5 stars, thriller, pub. 2015

Unabridged audio read by Robert Petkoff

Mark Novac book 1

Still mourning the death of his wife, private investigator Mark Novak accepts a case that may be his undoing. On the same day his wife died, the body of a teenage girl was pulled from the extensive and perilous cave system beneath Southern Indiana. Now the man who rescued the girl, who was believed to be her killer, begs Novak to uncover what really happened.

Garrison is much like any place in America, proud and fortified against outsiders. For Mark to delve beneath the town’s surface, he must match wits with the man who knows the caverns better than anyone. A man who seemed to have lost his mind. A man who seems to know Mark Novak all too well.    from Goodreads

 

Mark Novac works for the Innocence Foundation, due in great part to his deceased wife, who was following a lead when she was murdered.  Fast forward a few years and Mark is not coping with her unsolved murder as well as his bosses would like so they send him to Indiana on a wild goose chase.  Only it turns into something more for Mark as his life is threatened and he begins to care again.

I liked this thriller and recommend it to fans on the genre.  There was a lot of caving details in it and I appreciated learning about something new that wasn’t boring because the story fit the setting perfectly. I like Mark and see that there’s a second book so I’ll have to get that soon.

 

Devil in Spring by Lisa Kleypas

Title: Devil in Spring: The Ravenels, Book 3, Author: Lisa KleypasDevil in Spring. Finished 4-29-18, romance, pub. 2017

Unabridged audio performed by Mary Jane Wells.

The Ravenels book 3 (1-Cold-Hearted Rake) (2-Marrying Winterborne)

Most debutantes dream of finding a husband. Lady Pandora Ravenel has different plans. The ambitious young beauty would much rather stay at home and plot out her new board game business than take part in the London Season. But one night at a glittering society ball, she’s ensnared in a scandal with a wickedly handsome stranger. 

After years of evading marital traps with ease, Gabriel, Lord St. Vincent, has finally been caught-by a rebellious girl who couldn’t be less suitable. In fact, she wants nothing to do with him. But Gabriel finds the high-spirited Pandora irresistible. He’ll do whatever it takes to possess her, even if their marriage of convenience turns out to be the devil’s own bargain.     from Goodreads

I  was happy to be back with the Ravenel family!  Pandora was not one of my favorite characters in the first two books, but she grew on me in this one.  I was so impressed that she wanted to be a creative businesswoman and didn’t want any man to take her accomplishments away from her.  She was a woman ahead of her time.

Gabriel was fine. I think he appeared in a different series at some point so there were probably more positive feelings to be had for him by those who knew him before.  The two of them had me for most of the book, although the last bit dragged for me.

I’m already looking forward to the next in the series.  I think these are best read in order.

 

 

 

 

Golden Prey by John Sandford

Title: Golden Prey (Lucas Davenport Series #27), Author: John SandfordGolden Prey. Finished 5-6-18, rating 4/5, thriller, 393 pages, pub. 2017

Lucas Davenport series #27 (1- Rules of Prey, 2- Shadow Prey, 3- Eyes of Prey, 4- Silent Prey, 5- Winter Prey, 6- Night Prey, 7- Mind Prey, 8- Sudden Prey, 9- Secret Prey, 10- Certain Prey, 11-Easy Prey, 12- Chosen Prey, 13- Mortal Prey, 14- Naken Prey, 15- Hidden Prey, 16- Broken Prey, 17- Invisible Prey, 18- Phantom Prey, 19- Wicked Prey, 20– Storm Prey, 21- Buried Prey, 22-Stolen Prey, 23-Silken Prey, 24-Field of Prey, 25-Gathering Prey, 26-Extreme Prey)

Thanks to some very influential people whose lives he saved, Lucas is no longer working for the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, but for the U.S. Marshals Service, and with unusual scope. He gets to pick his own cases, whatever they are, wherever they lead him.
And where they’ve led him this time is into real trouble. A Biloxi, Mississippi, drug-cartel counting house gets robbed, and suitcases full of cash disappear, leaving behind five bodies, including that of a six-year-old girl. Davenport takes the case, which quickly spirals out of control, as cartel assassins, including a torturer known as the “Queen of home-improvement tools” compete with Davenport to find the Dixie Hicks shooters who knocked over the counting house. Things get ugly real fast, and neither the cartel killers nor the holdup men give a damn about whose lives Davenport might have saved; to them, he’s just another large target.   from Goodreads

The Lucas Davenport series is one that continues to hold up well, not just because of the writing and well executed chase stories, but because Lucas ages and evolves.  Too many long running series seem to recycle the same stories and characters over and over.

Lucas is no longer stuck in Minnesota, so the country is his playground and it takes him south to track an old favorite on the FBIs most wanted list that’s never been caught.  There are a multitude of very scary bad guys and they are equal opportunity killers since the women may be even more scary than the men.

I missed some of Lucas’s old friends in Minnesota, but he has two new marshal pals that I’m sure we’ll see again.  This was another solid thriller in the series, perfect for plane rides or vacations because it reads so fast.  These do not have to be read in order to enjoy the series.

 

 

Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult

Title: Small Great Things, Author: Jodi PicoultSmall Great Things. Finished April 28, 2018, rating 3.75/5, fiction, 458 pages, pub. 2016.

Jodi Picoult has a good thing going with a huge number of people who devour her books and always want more.  I am not one of them and I’m not sure why.  The first one I read was My Sister’s Keeper and I LOVED it.  It’s still on my top 100 favorite list.  I read two more (Vanishing Acts and The Pact) and thought they were okay.  After reading this I still feel the same way.  Picoult is a great writer and knows how to tell a story. The biggest difference with this one is that the subject matter is so on point for what is going on in our country right now, so I read it hoping for raw honesty and got it – up until a point.  I will reveal no details but feel free to discuss in the comments.

Ruth is a labor and delivery nurse, the only one of color at her hospital, and when a white supremacist couple comes in to deliver they reject her and her superiors agree to switch nurses. Something bad goes down and Ruth is suspended and needs a lawyer, enter Kennedy, a young white lawyer who wants to take race out of the case right away.  This book alternates between their three voices.

Turk’s chapters were difficult to read.  It was hard for me to come to terms with that kind of hate.  I feel like a got a firsthand look at the white power movement and  it was beyond disturbing.  Kennedy bore an almost too familiar feeling for this white mom.  So many things we think we understand about racism are really only surface deep and it takes someone like Ruth to come along to give us a small glimpse into her world.  The chapters between the women were what kept me reading.  Honestly, I just wanted to stop every time I saw Turk’s name come up.

We read this for our book group and there were many positives and a general good feeling about the book.  A few (me included) felt it was a little heavy handed.  But we all agreed that it did open our eyes about what is going on all around us that we may not have noticed before, and really, what more could you want in a book club discussion?

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What’s your favorite Jodi Picoult novel?

 

The Story of Arthur Truluv by Elizabeth Berg

Title: The Story of Arthur Truluv, Author: Elizabeth BergThe Story of Arthur Truluv. Finished 3-27-18, 4/5 stars, pub. 2017

Unabridged audio read by the author, Elizabeth Berg, 6.75 hours

A moving novel about three people who find their way back from loss and loneliness to a different kind of happiness. Arthur, a widow, meets Maddy, a troubled teenage girl who is avoiding school by hiding out at the cemetery, where Arthur goes every day for lunch to have imaginary conversations with his late wife, and think about the lives of others. The two strike up a friendship that draws them out of isolation. Maddy gives Arthur the name Truluv, for his loving and positive responses to every outrageous thing she says or does. With Arthur’s nosy neighbor Lucille, they create a loving and unconventional family, proving that life’s most precious moments are sweeter when shared.  from Goodreads

This opens with Arthur in the cemetery at the grave of his wife, so it immediately brought shades of A Man Called Ove, but these two widowers were different types of men. Where Ove was crusty and had to be drawn into relationships, Arthur was open and friendly and sought ways to reach out.  Ove was cloudy and Arthur sunny, but they also ended up being drawn into makeshift families that they didn’t have when their wives were with them and their fates in the end were the same.  I particularly loved Arthur’s insight into the buried dead at the cemetery. Cemeteries speak to me.

I liked the three main characters of this one. Arthur was great, obviously, but Maddy as the neglected and friendless teen and Louise as the lonely next door neighbor with a second chance at love, were both great too.  Maddy broke my heart. Her mother died when she was 2 and her father has never forgiven her for it.  She is bullied at school and tries to find someone to love her in a yucky boy and pays for it dearly.  Louise came off a little strident, but under that was a woman looking for a purpose in her retirement years.

I like Elizabeth Berg and was glad to catch up with her latest.  This is an uplifting book at its heart.

If you read both Ove and this one, did you feel similarities too?

 

Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy

Title: Far From the Madding Crowd (Barnes & Noble Classics Series), Author: Thomas HardyFar From the Madding Crowd.  Finished 3-14-18, 4.25/5 stars, classic, pub. 1874

Unabridged audio read by Nathaniel Parker. 13 hours, 35 minutes

Gabriel Oak is only one of three suitors for the hand of the beautiful and spirited Bathsheba Everdene. He must compete with the dashing young soldier Sergeant Troy and the respectable, middle-aged Farmer Boldwood. And while their fates depend upon the choice Bathsheba makes, she discovers the terrible consequences of an inconstant heart.

Far from the Madding Crowd was the first of Hardy’s novels to give the name Wessex to the landscape of southwest England and the first to gain him widespread popularity as a novelist. Set against the backdrop of the unchanging natural cycle of the year, the story both upholds and questions rural values with a startlingly modern sensibility.   from Goodreads

I watched the movie last year and really liked it. I’m going to do a comparison post in a few days so I’ll try not to compare  the two now.

Bathsheba is a woman before her time.  It’s 1800’s England and Bathsheba, once a young woman living with her aunt, becomes an independent woman when her late uncle leaves her his successful farm. She is a head strong woman and not the first one who has had her intelligence questioned by her terrible taste in men.  Gabriel Oak knew her when she lived with her aunt and is steadfast and loyal. Mr. Boldwood owns a neighboring farm and was forever changed when he received a Valentine sent from Bathsheba.  Sergeant Troy has his head turned by the pretty Bathsheba with her money.  Bathsheba, at least at first, doesn’t want to marry and be put under a man’s thumb, but things change when her heart starts to beat a little faster.

I liked this classic.  Being a city girl myself I loved learning more about the everyday life on the farm.  Bathsheba and her one time maid, Fanny, both made the very same mistake but suffered very different fates due to their circumstances.  I liked the way it showed the truth that opportunities don’t come to all and mistakes, when made, are more easily forgiven when you have money.  Bathsheba did drive me crazy at times, but probably no more flawed than the rest of us.  The three suitors were all interesting in their own right, but it is Gabriel Oak who is my new crush 🙂

This is my second Thomas Hardy novel and  my 21st selection for the Classics Club and I have until January 1, 2020 to get to 50.  I am woefully behind!

 

Lilli de Jong by Janet Benton

Title: Lilli de Jong, Author: Janet BentonLilli de Jong. Finished 3-14-18, 4/5 stars, historical fiction, 335 pages, pub. 2017

A young woman finds the most powerful love of her life when she gives birth at an institution for unwed mothers in 1883 Philadelphia. She is told she must give up her daughter to avoid a life of poverty and shame. But she chooses to keep her.

Pregnant, abandoned by her lover, and banished from her Quaker home and teaching position, Lilli de Jong enters a charity for wronged women to deliver her child. She is stunned at how much her infant needs her and at how quickly their bond overpowers her heart. Mothers in her position have no sensible alternative to giving up their children, but Lilli can’t bear such an outcome. Determined to chart a path toward an independent life, Lilli braves moral condemnation and financial ruin in a quest to keep herself and her baby alive.    from Goodreads

What an emotional book.  Lilli was a devout Quaker and lived happily with her parents and brother, but when her mother dies suddenly and her father takes up drinking and a sexual relationship with his cousin, Lilli’s life quickly turns.  Finding strength in Johan, her father’s assistant, she has one night of passion and many promises for a bright future after Johan and her brother go off to set up a life in Pittsburgh.  Lilli, jobless thanks to her father, pregnant thanks to an absent boyfriend, and homeless thanks to a jealous cousin is suddenly on the streets of Philadelphia.  Being an unwed mother-to-be is no easy feat in 1883 and Lilli’s life and that of her baby girl go from bad to worse.

This was a series of 10 diaries written by Lilli during her almost two years of hardship and life was tenuous. I read it over two nights and was drawn in completely.  It did move a bit slow for me, but was such a interesting look at the life of women at the time.  Lilli’s story will stick with me for quite a while.

We read this for book club last night.  There were five of us, and only one didn’t care for it. There was a great discussion about how much has really changed for women since then.  It was also pointed out that this was a book of survival during a harsh time, so even though it was difficult to read it was an honest look at life at the time.  At its heart it is a book about what being a mother really means and the lengths one will go to for her child.

 

I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L Sanchez

Title: I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter, Author: Erika L. SánchezI Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter. Finished 1-6-18, 4.25/5, YA, pub, 2017

Unabridged audio read by Kyla Garcia. 9 hours 41 minutes.

Perfect Mexican daughters do not go away to college. And they do not move out of their parents’ house after high school graduation. Perfect Mexican daughters never abandon their family.
But Julia is not your perfect Mexican daughter. That was Olga’s role.
Then a tragic accident on the busiest street in Chicago leaves Olga dead and Julia left behind to reassemble the shattered pieces of her family. And no one seems to acknowledge that Julia is broken, too. Instead, her mother seems to channel her grief into pointing out every possible way Julia has failed.
But it’s not long before Julia discovers that Olga might not have been as perfect as everyone thought. With the help of her best friend Lorena, and her first kiss, first love, first everything boyfriend Connor, Julia is determined to find out. Was Olga really what she seemed? Or was there more to her sister’s story? And either way, how can Julia even attempt to live up to a seemingly impossible ideal?     from Goodreads

I don’t read a lot of YA books, but last year The Hate U Give ended up being a favorite and this one, a National Book Award for Young People Finalist, also satisfied my desire to learn about American lives so different from my own.  Julia, a Mexican-American teen in Chicago, lost her sister to a freak accident and she struggles in the aftermath.  Her sister was the perfect one, going to community college while living at home, and when she died Julia’s mother lost it.  Julia is trying to understand her older sister after the fact and it leads her to surprising answers.

Julia is a teenager with some issues and she was trying at times, yet she did grow on me.  I had sympathy for her cockroach infested apartment (been there and it was disgusting) and her embarrassment over being poor when she met a boy she was interested in, but it wasn’t until she was sent back to her family in Mexico for a visit that I began to really root for her.  Julia is a memorable teen and I have high hopes for her future as a writer and for a relationship with Connor, her first love 🙂  I wouldn’t mind a follow up book at all!

This is an immigrant story, Julia’s parents are undocumented and used a coyote to cross the border, a mystery when she discovers her perfect sister had a secret, and a coming of age story with a heroine full of angst and mental health issues.  This really is a relatively quick read that delves into many issues that will keep you engaged.  I really liked this one.