Tag Archives: graphic novels

Review: Strong Female Protagonist by Brennan Lee Mulligan and Molly Ostertag

strong female protagonist

I first read about Strong Female Protagonist, by Brennan Lee Mulligan and Molly Ostertag, at Capricious Reader, but by the time I got my copy from the library, I’d forgotten what it was all about. So when I started reading it, I was more or less going into it blind.

Alison Green is a tier one biodynamic individual. She has super strength and is invincible. In her world, that makes her a superhero alongside other superheroes, fighting tier one biodynamic individuals who are supervillains. Fighting crime and beating the bad guys as Mega Girl is a whole lot of fun … until one day she comes up against her arch enemy, the mind-reading Menace, and discovers evidence of a conspiracy that puts all of her heroic feats into a new light. As Menace puts it, “Nobody thnks we can change the world, and they’re right.”

Is Menace right? Beating up the bad guys suddenly feels irrelevant to Alison. She has no clue what she’s doing, and it doesn’t make sense that people are looking to her for answers just because bullets can’t harm her and she’s strong enough to lift a car over her head. So Alison steps away from the business of being a superhero, enrols in college and tries to figure things out as best she can.

The only thing is, not everyone’s ready to let her forget her past. And in the meantime, Alison’s given up on saving the world. She wants to change it instead. But is such a thing even possible?

Strong Female Protagonist is a webcomic which found its way into print via a successful Kickstarter campaign. And I am so glad it did. I loved everything about Alison’s story: her struggles to live a somewhat normal life, the frustrations of living in a world that even her powers can’t truly save, the spotlight it shines on everyday heroism. Despite her powers, Alison is as human as everyone else, uncertain of what’s going on, unsure of how—and if—she can change things.

In many ways, this is a graphic novel that grapples with a lot of heavy issues: Is it worth saving the world if saving the world means preserving it the way it is? What is the worth of a tortuous self-sacrifice that saves individual lives but won’t make the world a better place? Can a handful of moments make the difference between a superhero and a supervillain? And if it does, what does this say about our world? But at the same time, there are many, many fun moments. It’s a perfect blend.

 strong female protagonist note 2 

The other thing I enjoyed about Strong Female Protagonist? The notes from the author and the illustrator on the bottom of each page. Sometimes these notes add further explanation to a panel, other times they point out something in the art, and often they’re just a pure fun me-to-you wink and nudge from the author and/or illustrator.

If Mulligan and Ostertag decide to do another Kickstarter for the next volume? I’m definitely in! If you haven’t read this comic yet, you really must add it to your to-read list. And when you’re done, you can continue with the further adventures of Strong Female Protagonist online, where the webcomic is updated twice weekly.

From My Haphazard Twitter Files (No. 7): dim sum, diversity perceptions in book reviews, the Princess Bride and more


It’s time for another peek at my haphazard Twitter files! This week I’ve chosen eight links out of all the ones I tweeted since the last Haphazard Twitter Files post. Not all bookish, since I like to tweet whatever catches my eye and I have to tell you, SO many things catch my eye!

1. I’ve never been great with languages, but I’ve been thinking about learning another one lately. These top 10 podcasts to help you learn a language might come in handy!

2. Old books reborn as art.  Such an incredible video, from TedTalks.

3.  If you’ve been wanting to try dim sum but the idea of all those choices scares you a little, check out this beginner’s field guide to dim sum at Lucky Peach (which, by the way, is a wonderful foodie magazine). It’s quite a comprehensive list, and there were selections on there I’ve never tried myself.

My own personal dim sum favourites? The rice noodle rolls with shrimp, har gow (shrimp dumplings) and steamed spareribs with fermented black beans. Mmmm.

4. Author Malinda Lo has written a great post about perceptions of diversity in book reviews. This is part one, where she goes over a number of professional book reviews from places like Kirkus and Publishers Weekly and shows us one perception that crops up in these reviews: the idea that a diverse cast of characters is “scarcely plausible”. You can catch up with the rest of the posts she’ll write in this series here (there’s a second post up now on “so many (too many?) issues”.

5. February is graphic novel month, right? Memory has written a post over at Lady Business where she writes about the Hugo’s Best Graphic Story category and recommends a number of 2014 new releases. Go read and be prepared to expand your TBR list!

6. Want to know how to slow down time? Check out the life-changing trick author Michael Lewis (Liar’s Poker, Moneyball) wrote on a Chipotle cup.

7. Some of the items in 16 skills that make your reading more productive can apply to reading fiction as well as non-fiction. I find these kinds of lists normally work best with reading nonfiction, so that was a pleasant surprise. I love the idea of a commonplace book, and I really want to start giving myself permission to make notes directly in some of the books I read.

8. The Guardian has a great interview with Cary Elwes on The Princess Bride: “I know what my epitaph will be”.  I haven’t read As You Wish yet, but it’s in my TBR stacks and I know right after I read it, I’m going to want to watch “The Princess Bride” again!

There was, unfortunately, one dud among the links I tweeted this week. I was super excited about this hack that promises you can quickly peel a hard-boiled egg by shaking it in a glass of water. I tried it twice and sadly I ended up with a half-peeled egg that broke in half each time. Maybe I shook it for too long both times …

What interesting links did you tweet or come across on Twitter this week?

[TSS] Bookish Bliss: More SAGA!

saga v2saga v3


I finished Saga, volume 2 and Saga, volume 3! Now I’m looking forward to getting Saga, volume 4 – I just checked my library’s website, and it looks like it’s in transit to me even as I type.

It’s not just the storylines. The art is just so incredible, too. There are so many things to take in, in each panel. I’m so glad I finally got around to reading this series.

Have you read the Saga series? What did you think of it?

[TSS] Bookish Bliss: The Benefits of Having a "Books Read" Goal

I had an unbelievable reading week, considering I’m still working on all the deadlines. I’ve discovered that setting a “books read” goal and then keeping track of that goal in a spreadsheet does wonders for any reading ennui I might be feeling.

Yes, apparently I am one who is easily motivated by the thought of adding another book to the spreadsheet.

And because of my “books read” goal, I’ve been finding bits of time in which to read – instead of doing what I used to do, which was wait until I had a nice big chunk of time. Instead, I’ve been dipping in and out of books, reading during breaks from work, reading in the ten or fifteen minutes before going to bed, reading when I’m waiting for Dylan to finish dance class – and astonishingly, all those bits of time have added up to my finishing four books this past week!

Mind you, two of them were graphic novels. I already loved graphic novels before setting my reading goal. I love them even more now.

I think my next book will be:

The Dream Thieves

From everything I’ve heard, The Dream Thieves is a great sequel, and I’m excited, too, that I also have Blue Lily, Lily Blue waiting for me too.

These are the books I read in the past week (and another surprise: none of them are in audio!):

daughter of smoke and bone

Daughter of Smoke & Bone: Such a marvellous read. I don’t know why it took me so long to get to it, but I’m glad I finally did.

days of blood & starlight

Days of Blood & Starlight. Luckily I had book two in the trilogy, so as soon as I finished Daughter of Smoke & Bone, I turned immediately to Days of Blood & Starlight. This one was so eventful, I had to stop about two-thirds of the way through to take a breather.

During this breather, I picked up: The unwritten volume 3 The Unwritten: Dead Man’s Knock, Volume 3 of The Unwritten series. Lovely to be back in the Tommy Taylor world. I finished this one and then went back to Days of Blood & Starlight, and when I read breathlessly to the ending, I decided to pick up the next volume of The Unwritten. Leviathan The Unwritten: Leviathan, Volume 4 of The Unwritten series.

Fingers crossed here that next week will be another great reading week for me!

Catching up on The Unwritten

The unwritten volume 3

Long day today, late post tonight. But some good reading news! When I took a break from reading Days of Blood and Starlight yesterday, I found myself picking up The Unwritten: Dead Man’s Knock, Volume 3 of The Unwritten series. It’s been a while since I read volumes 1 and 2, and I’ve been meaning to play catch-up on the series ever since.

I remembered again why I enjoyed this series so much. All those literary references! Reading Dead Man’s Knock, I particularly enjoyed the story “The Many Lives of Lizzie Hexam”, which is presented in Pick-a-Story format.

And the really great thing about graphic novels? They’re such quick reads! It was nice adding another book to my “books read” spreadsheet.


I started volume 4 of the series, Leviathan, today – in between coming back from Dylan’s dance classes and heading out again for a Chinese classical dance and music performance. So I didn’t have that much time. But I’m hoping I’ll be able to plunge back into it tonight and finish it before I go to bed.

So much for going to bed earlier so I can wake up earlier. The allure of books – it’s just too much. Especially on a weekend!

Snapshot: January 20, 2015

Time: 4:58 pm

Wearing: Black pants, black short-sleeved top, black cardigan (I detect a theme going on here).

Feeling: Tired. A little stressed. (This one’s a recurring theme …)

Eating: Maple pork breakfast sausages

Drinking: Green tea followed by two decaf hazelnut coffees

Reading: I finished two books yesterday!

First was The Land of Laughs by Jonathan Carroll. Since I’ve been busy, I’ve been trying to read a bit from it every day, so it’s taken me a while to finish it. I turned to the last page and said, “wow”, because I hadn’t expected that last paragraph. This is an older book – published in 1980 – and it’s kind of surreal and quirky. I enjoyed it, and will definitely read more of Carroll’s work.

The second book was Saga, Volume 1. When I finished The Land of Laughs, it was around midnight, and I decided to keep reading Saga until I finished it. It was so good! I can hardly wait until I get volume 2.

Listening: I’m still listening to The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss, but I’m at the part where he’s talking about different technology you can use to automate your life. This is the expanded edition, published in 2009, I think, and a lot of the programs he’s talking about are on the obsolete side. So I may just fast forward to the next chapter to see.

Writing: I’m mostly finished with the first draft of Lakeview Legacy – there are several scenes from a secondary storyline that I added that need to be written, but I need to sit down and brainstorm those scenes before I can write them. So three days ago I started making lists for the new mystery I’ll be writing next. The brainstorming’s been going well – I stretch myself by making myself list 100 points for each topic I’m considering. Today I’ll be working on motives.

It does feel odd not to be adding a word count to my word count tracker. I’ve been putting in a “B” instead, to indicate I’ve been brainstorming and planning.

Working: Still working through a slew of indexing deadlines, across a variety of subjects, plus I have two articles due tomorrow.

Creating: I’ve been working slowly but surely on a doodle quote. I figure if I add a little to it every day, I can still say I’m being #creativeeveryday, right?

Photo of the week: I was really too busy this past week to take too many photos. If I had to pick, I guess it would be this one of Creeper making himself very comfortable on Dylan’s laptop, while Dylan’s trying to play a game. He’s so comfortable, he’s napping!

Creeper on laptop

Discoveries: When I’m busy, it’s more of a struggle thinking up a blog post topic. Even the stash of ideas I started back in November, which I added to all through December, feel lacklustre to me. I never realized this connection between getting ideas and being overworked/overwhelmed before!

Looking forward to: February (I think that’s going to be the tune of all of this month’s snapshots). Also looking forward to the decaf Americano I’ll be getting from Starbucks later tonight, when I take Dylan to dance.

The rest of today: I’m taking Dylan to his dance class – I’ll do some writing at Starbucks while I’m waiting – and then back home for more work.

[TSS] Bookish Bliss: SAGA

Short post today, because I’m still catching up on deadlines.

(And you’re all saying, ha! Belle write a short post? Is such a thing even possible?

It is! The deadline crunch thing can transform my writing from rambling to clear, concise, non-rambling and short

Now, where was I? …)


I picked up Saga, Volume One from the library earlier this week, and am just kicking myself now because last year, I’d borrowed both volumes one and two of Saga – and ended up returning them unread to the library.

Sigh. I could be well into the series by now, you know.

Anyway, I’ve started reading volume one, and it is so good so far!

My treat for finishing the latest deadline? More time with Saga! It’s an incentive that’s making me more focused on my deadline. Hence this short(ish) post.

A Graphic Novel Reading Streak

After a fabulous summer of reading, I now find myself in the midst of a graphic novel reading streak. And it’s been really wonderful.

A good graphic novel is such a delight: intense, gripping, and short enough to finish in one sitting.

The only thing I regret right now is forgetting to make a list of what I’ve read. (Yes, I’ve been shamefully neglectful of both my TBR list on Goodreads and my TBR board on Pinterest.)

But that’s okay, because this post will be filled with those I found the most memorable. (One of those “it’s gotta be because it is” situations.)

The Unwritten, by Mike Carey and Peter Gross


So far I’ve read The Unwritten, Vol. 1: Tommy Taylor and the Bogus Identity and The Unwritten, Vol. 2: Inside Man; I’ve put in a request for the next three volumes from the library, and am keeping my fingers crossed that they’ll be getting a copy of, The Unwritten, Vol 6: Tommy Taylor and the War of Words when it’s released next month.

So what’s The Unwritten series about? Here’s the synopsis of The Unwritten, Vol. 1: Tommy Taylor and the Bogus Identity from Goodreads:

Tom Taylor’s life was screwed from go. His father created the Tommy Taylor fantasy series, boy-wizard novels with popularity on par with Harry Potter. The problem is Dad modeled the fictional epic so closely to Tom’s real life that fans are constantly comparing him to his counterpart, turning him into the lamest variety of Z-level celebrity. In the final novel, it’s even implied that the fictional Tommy will crossover into the real world, giving delusional fans more excuses to harass Tom.

When an enormous scandal reveals that Tom might really be a boy-wizard made flesh, Tom comes into contact with a very mysterious, very deadly group that’s secretly kept tabs on him all his life. Now, to protect his own life and discover the truth behind his origins, Tom will travel the world, eventually finding himself at locations all featured on a very special map — one kept by the deadly group that charts places throughout world history where fictions have impacted and tangibly shaped reality, those stories ranging from famous literary works to folktales to pop culture. And in the process of figuring out what it all means, Tom will find himself having to figure out a huge conspiracy mystery that spans the entirety of the history of fiction.

Such fun!

Gunnerkrigg Court series, by Thomas Siddell

I’ve read all three volumes of this series:

Gunnerkrigg Court, Vol. 1: Orientation

 Gunnerkrigg Court, Vol. 2: Research 

 Gunnerkrigg Court, Vol. 3: Reason

Lovely, lovely reads. And best of all? Gunnerkrigg Court is a webcomic and you can read the entire series (including the panels that come after volume 3) over at Tom Siddell’s Gunnerkrigg Court. Although, once you’ve read it online, you’re probably going to want to get the hardcover copies of the books, too.

Antimony Carver is a precocious and preternaturally self-possessed young girl starting her first year of school at gloomy Gunnerkrigg Court, a very British boarding school that has robots running around along side body-snatching demons, forest gods, and the odd mythical creature. (From Goodreads)

Courtney Crumrin series, by Ted Naifeh

Courtney’s parents have dragged her out to a high-to-do suburb to live with her creepy Great Uncle Aloysius in his spooky old house. She’s not only the new kid in school, but she also discovers strange things lurking under her bed. (From Goodreads)

Unfortunately, my library doesn’t have the first volume of the series, but I’ve read the other three volumes:

 Courtney Crumrin and the Coven of Mystics

Courtney Crumrin in the Twilight Kingdom

Courtney Crumrin’s Monstrous Holiday

I really enjoyed Courtney Crumrin’s character: smart and talented, strong in her values, which often differs from the values of those around her, and that touch of loneliness that makes you want to hug her, even though you know it would likely be quite the prickly squirmy affair.

Mangaman, by Barry Lyga


Mangaman was such a quick, fun and quirky read! I haven’t read a lot of anime or manga, but I’m familiar enough with the conventions, and a lot of the things happening in Mangaman were laugh out loud funny.

Ryoko, a manga character from a manga world, falls through the Rip into the “real” world—the western world—and tries to survive as the ultimate outsider at a typical American high school.

When Ryoko falls in love with Marissa Montaigne, the most beautiful girl in the school, his eyes turn to hearts and comic tension tightens as his way of being drawn and expressing himself clashes with this different Western world in which he is stuck in. “Panel-holed” for being different, Ryoko has to figure out how to get back to his manga world, back through the Rip . . . all while he has hearts for eyes for a girl from the wrong kind of comic book. (From Goodreads.)

WIZZYWIG: Portrait of a Serial Hacker, by Ed Piskor

WIZZYWIG was an enjoyable read. It also made me very sad. And a little shocked that the government could impose four years of pre-trial custody like that (Kevin “Boingthump” Phenicle, the fictional hacker in WIZZYWIG, is based on real-life hackers, including Kevin Mitnik who, I learned after reading WIZZYWIG, spent four and a half years in pre-trial custody. That’s a very long time to be incarcerated without the benefit of a trial.) This is definitely a graphic novel that makes you think.

And more graphic novels to come …

I meant to post about more of the graphic novels I’ve read recently, but this is already quite a long post as it is (I know. I can’t help it!). I also have several graphic novels in my TBR stacks that I can hardly wait to get to, including the Fables series, and quite a few non-series ones.

I can’t say I’m anywhere near sated when it comes to graphic novels, and I’m on the look-out for more good reads. If there’s a graphic novel you’d recommend, please let me know in the comments!

Alison Dare, “Live”: Alison Dare vs. The Halogen Light Monster

Yes, Alison Dare was at our house, where she handily defeated the evil, many fanged, incredibly ferocious halogen light monster!

When Tundra Books asked if I’d like to take part in The Double Dare Blog Tour, I was definitely intrigued – what they proposed was a “photo post”, with all participating bloggers snapping a picture of Alison Dare having a little adventure.

So of course, before saying “yes”, I asked my daughter Hayley if she’d be interested in helping out. How? By making a short video of Alison Dare having fun at our place, of course!

Luckily, Hayley was just as intrigued as I was. Unfortunately, the date for the blog tour fell right before her exams, so she didn’t have much time to work on the video. There’s no sound, for instance (in case any of you were turning up your volume and wondering if your speakers were malfunctioning). But it’s cute and you get to watch Alison Dare kick butt!

So just who is Alison Dare? She is the star of two graphic novels, Alison Dare, Little Miss Adventures and Alison Dare, The Heart of the Maiden, by J. Torres and J. Bones.

And just what makes Alison Dare so special? Well, for starters, her mother is the famous archaeologist, Dr. Alice Dare. And her father is that dashing masked superhero, The Blue Scarab.

But that’s not all! She’s also the niece of Johnny Dare, the international super spy who also happens to be a master of disguises.

And let’s just say this: Alison Dare most definitely lives up to her DNA! Alison is a plucky, adventurous 12-year-old who finds herself in some really unusual adventures.

Tundra Books is also hosting an Alison Dare photo contest. It’s a great chance to get your hands on the Alison Dare graphic novels – three winners will receive an Alison Dare prize pack. Deadline is June 30, so there’s tons of time to get your creativity going!

A Parisian Holiday: French Milk, by Lucy Knisley

French MilkI moved on from reading Eye of the Crow to something completely different: French Milk, by Lucy Knisley is a memoir, written in graphic novel format, of a month-long holiday the author took with her mother in Paris, France.

I came across this novel when I was reading around the blogosphere (when I do this kind of surfing around, it’s extremely dangerous for my TBR list, which grows at an astronomical rate); I immediately put in a hold request for it from the library (I’m not sure whether my librarians actually like me all that much anymore, because I’m always putting things on hold).

This was a lovely, quick read; what I liked most about it were all the descriptions of the food that Knisley and her mother ate, accompanied by Knisley’s charming illustrations.

Interspersed throughout are black and white photographs from the trip; the photos are a nice accompaniment to Knisley’s drawings.

The preface to the book talks about the self-discoveries Knisley made during the trip, as well as similar revelations about her relationship with her mother, but I didn’t feel this to be the book’s strong point; it’s not so much about the author’s fully coming into adulthood while in Paris, as it is about all the wonderful sights and experiences she had while there. Her mother accompanied her, true, but I didn’t get much insight into their relationship. If anything, I got more of a feel for the author’s relationship with her father, who joined them for a few days of the trip.

French Milk is at its heart a wonderful and charming travel memoir – a fun, quick read that will leave you dreaming of leaving regular life behind for a few lovely weeks in Paris.

Want to buy French Milk? Support MsBookish by purchasing through one of these links: Amazon.com) | Indiebound | Chapters Indigo | Amazon.co.uk