Saturday, October 14, 2017

Girl in Dior

Girl in Dior is the story of the rise of the fashion label Christian Dior. Intermingled into the story is that of a fictional budding journalist Clara Nohant who becomes one of Dior's models and after marrying into British royalty, a customer.

The book is supposed to be a biography of Christian Dior.  While his life is covered, the addition of a fictional character, Clara, mars the story and I do not know why the author chose to add her to the story. Clara was not necessary to write a great graphic biography.

The illustrations are exquisite.  I would love to see some of them framed on my walls. The question for many will be whether the price of the book is worth the illustrations given a botched storyline.  For me, the answer is yes.  It was the beauty of the dresses illustrated that made me buy this book.

It's hard to figure out how to rate this book.  I think anyone interested in fashion will like it because of the illustrations as well as the history of the House of Dior.  I just wish fiction wasn't added to this biography.

Monday, September 4, 2017

By Any Means

I have read all of the books in this Ash Rashid detective series and loved them all.  By Any Means was published in 2014 so I am a little behind in my reading.

In this installment of the series Ash is no longer working as a detective for the Indianapolis Police Department but has been reassigned to the community relations department. He primarily gives speeches to schools. However, on his way home from work one day he finds a car accident.  Since no other officers are available, Ash is told to stay at the scene until an officer can arrive. Ash is unable to not investigate so he begins asking questions to those who were in the area when the accident happened. He determined that these responses do not add up and begins to investigate what he feels is a homicide.

As usual, author Chris Culver outdoes himself with his writing.  It is fast paced with plenty of twists and turns and there is a cliffhanger ending. I also love that his protagonist is an American Muslim, albeit not much of a practitioner of his faith.  Ash is an alcoholic. This is a welcome addition to American fiction and normalizes the viewpoint of Muslims in our society.

A great read!

Thursday, August 31, 2017

The Attack

When I bought this graphic novel I presumed it was about a terrorist attack in the Middle East, which it is.  However, the plot was much different than I expected.

Amin Jaafari is an Arab and a naturalized Israeli citizen living in Tel Aviv.  He is also a surgeon and lives a life of luxury compared to that of his fellow Arabs. When his wife Sihem is identified as a suicide bomber who killed 19 people in a restaurant, Amin has to comes to grips with how she decieved him. He had no idea that she had terrorist leanings. Amin then travels to Palestinian areas in order to discover how his secular wife became radicalized.

I loved this book. The author does not take a side in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, unusual in a book taking place in the Middle East. He shows both sides along with the stress and grief that they both share in this conflict. 

Red Rosa

Kate Evans' Red Rosa is a graphic biography of Rosa Luxemburg.  I was not familiar with Luxemburg before reading this biography but I found that she was a woman ahead of her time.  Rosa was a passionate socialist who did alot of writing and speaking to educate and inspire many people to her cause. She was the only woman of her era, the early 1900s, to have this power.

She was born and raised in Poland but also lived in Germany promoting her beliefs. She was tough enough to question the beliefs and actions of both Marx and Lenin. She also did not care for society's role for women and chose not to marry, prefer to have lovers instead. She was truly a woman in control of her life and I admire that.

As a feminist myself, I was surprised that I had not heard of Rosa Luxemburg before seeing this book.  She was certainly a female powerhouse of the twentieth century and belongs in studies on women's history.  Unfortunately, none of the courses I took in college mentioned her.

Ladies, this is a must read!

Nanjing: The Burning City

I was disappointed in Ethan Young's Nanjing. It is a wartime narrative of the fall of China's former capital city Nanjing to the Japanese in 1937. The book showcases 2 Chinese soldiers who were caught in the city after it was captured by the Japanese.

I did not learn much about the WWII fight commonly known as the Rape of Nanjing. Perhaps I am used to this type of story being told as a reportage comic which has tons of detail via the dialogue.  There is little dialogue in Nanjing and the artwork consists of black and white drawings in comic strips.

Unfortunately, I can only give this graphic novel 1 out of 5 stars. It just didn't teach me anything about this episode in history.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Safe Area Gorazde

Safe Area Gorazde is the story of the town of Gorazde in eastern Bosnia during the Bosnian War in the early 1990s.  It is told from the point of view of the reportage cartoonist Joe Sacco who was a U.N. journalist who traveled there 4 times during the war.  The U. N. had designated Gorazde as a safe area during the war but it was anything but safe. The community had been majority Muslim before the war began but most of them were slaughtered by the Serbs throughout the war.

The story is heavy on the fighting with interludes on silly teenage girls and parties with local residents. Much of the information on Gorazde comes from the author's guide Edin, a grad student.  Also, refugees arriving in Gorazde tell about the atrocities they saw in their hometowns, including mass executions, that they were forced to flee from. There is also information on Yugoslavia from the end of WWII to the beginning of the Bosnian War. After WWII the different ethnicities lived together peacefully under the authoritarian leadership of Tito. After Tito's death, Slobodan Milosevic took power and began inciting ethnic hatred.

While I had read much about this war while it was ongoing, I learned alot about it from the first person accounts that the author provided in the book.

The book offers a good history of this war. History lovers will want to check this one out.

Killing and Dying

This was not my favorite graphic novel. It is a compilation of 6 separate comics.  While they were amusing, I prefer to have one story told in a "novel."

The comics included "Hortisculpture," "Amber Sweet," "Go Owls," "Translated From the Japanese," "Killing and Dying," and "Intruders."  My favorites were "Hortisculpture" which is about a new art form that combines sculpture and gardening, "Amber Sweet" which is about mistaken identity and "Killing and Dying" which is about parenthood.

The style of the artwork is minimalist drawings done in comic panels. Most are black and white but every few pages there is color.

I hate to give an author a poor rating on a book when I am predisposed to not liking it in the first place.  I won't do that.  If you are the type of graphic novel reader who likes seeing a series of different comics in one book, you will enjoy this one.