Book review: "The Prince and the Dressmaker" by Jen Wang

The Prince and the Dressmaker  

If you ask me now how I head of The Prince and the Dressmaker, I would not be able to tell you. But it was on my Amazon wishlist way before it came out. I was even going to purchase it when I saw it available on OverDrive through my library. So, obviously, I had to request it.

 

I found the summary of the book a bit spoilery, so if you would like, just skip over it to my review.

Summary

 

Paris, at the dawn of the modern age:

 

Prince Sebastian is looking for a bride―or rather, his parents are looking for one for him. Sebastian is too busy hiding his secret life from everyone. At night he puts on daring dresses and takes Paris by storm as the fabulous Lady Crystallia―the hottest fashion icon in the world capital of fashion!

 

Sebastian’s secret weapon (and best friend) is the brilliant dressmaker Frances―one of only two people who know the truth: sometimes this boy wears dresses. But Frances dreams of greatness, and being someone’s secret weapon means being a secret. Forever. How long can Frances defer her dreams to protect a friend? Jen Wang weaves an exuberantly romantic tale of identity, young love, art, and family. A fairytale for any age, The Prince and the Dressmaker will steal your heart.

 

Review

 

Okay, so my first reaction when I opened up The Prince and the Dressmaker was “this is a graphic novel????”. I admit that my habit of not reading the summary and staying away from spoilers completely blindsided me in this case.

 

I was delighted though as I found that the format of a graphic novel worked very well for this story.

 

Discovering this story as it goes felt as if I was a kid reading one of the classic fairy tales for the first time. The pace is great, and the story has all the attributes of a good tale: we have a hard-working dressmaker with a dream and a misunderstood prince who struggles to express himself.

 

I flew through the book. I found it adorable and cute, a very easy and light read, but lacking in some unidentifiable way, even though I think it is well written. Perhaps, my impression came from the fact that I kept thinking of Gru from Despicable Me every time I saw Sebastian and it just ruined all drama for me (I am sorry! It is the nose!). There are some earlier sketches at the back of the book, and I liked Sebastian better in those with a less pointy nose.

 

I loved Frances, though. She is strong and talented, and I like how she goes in the pursuit of her dreams even though it means breaking her heart. A delightful character!

 

Only after finishing the story, I realized that The Prince and the Dressmaker was tagged as a middle-grade book on GoodReads. I am not sure if it is the actual case, as it didn’t feel like a middle-grade novel. I often struggle with the middle-grade genre as those books tend to stay away from edgy topics or gloss over certain details, focusing more on external conflicts rather than internal. In The Prince and the Dressmaker, there is an internal conflict (for both Frances and Sebastian) as well as an external one, and the characters are in their teen years, so I would rather classify it as young adult. However, there is no violence, explicit sexual scenes, etc.,  and it is generally a happy book overall.

 

Would I give it to read to a 10-12-year-old kid? Absolutely.

 

The Prince and the Dressmaker can show children that sometimes people can be different, and it is okay. In some ways, it reminded me of George by Alex Gino, although Sebastian does not have the same gender identity (it is not explicitly explained as the story is set in a fairytale setting, but I assume Sebastian is non-binary or gender fluid).

 

I highly recommend you pick up The Prince and the Dressmaker. It is a light and fun read with an important message hidden within the folds of pretty dresses.

 

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Rating: 4 stars

 

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Book review: "Lighter Than My Shadow" by Katie Green (graphic novel)

Lighter Than My Shadow

 

I heard about this book from my book club, but then quickly forgot about it, until I came across it on OverDrive. I was in Vienna, on vacation, and wanted a graphic novel to read.

Something short and light, I thought.

Oh boy. Was I wrong. Neither short nor light, although definitely uplifting in the end.

Summary

 

Like most kids, Katie was a picky eater. She'd sit at the table in silent protest, hide uneaten toast in her bedroom, listen to parental threats that she'd have to eat it for breakfast.

But in any life a set of circumstance can collide, and normal behavior might soon shade into something sinister, something deadly.

Lighter Than My Shadow is a hand-drawn story of struggle and recovery, a trip into the black heart of a taboo illness, an exposure of those who are so weak as to prey on the vulnerable, and an inspiration to anybody who believes in the human power to endure towards happiness.

 

Review

 

Lighter Than My Shadow is a memoir, based on the author’s own experiences. The book is written in such an honest and compelling way, that I couldn’t put it down. I read it almost in 2 sittings (or rather “lying down”s as I read it in bed at night). I couldn’t stop reading. I might have shed a tear or two. Or three. And after I was done, I still kept thinking about that book. If it weren’t a 500-pages chunker, I might have started reading it all over again.

 

This is a graphic novel, which makes it even easier to sympathize with Katie, when you get to see visual manifestations of her thoughts, eating disorder, fears. It is incredibly touching  and relatable on various levels - we see Katie’s internal struggles and her problems communicating with her family and friends. You don’t have to have an eating disorder or any other mental illness, or have anyone in your life who suffers in the same way, to be completely pulled into Katie’s world and be able to sympathize with her.

 

The book is drawn in sort of grey, brown-ish scale. My favourite parts were the ones in which we could see what is happening in Katie’s head while she is talking to people, or how she sees herself as a ghost, a shadow, that gets more and more transparent, and therefore invisible. This is such a true depiction of any mental illness or any other invisible disability. It definitely pulled on my heart strings.

 

Lighter Than My Shadow can be triggering for some readers, as it deals with topics of mental illness, self-harm, thoughts of suicide, abuse. But it is such an important book, written with such honesty and grace, that it has to be recommended to everyone. It is the best book for both people suffering from mental illness as it gives you hope and their loved ones as it shows how it feels to live with this every day.

 

If I could, I would give this book a million of stars. Read it. Preferably, on iPad as the paperback version is a behemoth.

 

Rating: 5 stars

 

Website: https://lighterthanmyshadow.com

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Book review: Nimona by Noelle Stevenson (audiobook)

Remember the time, when this graphic novel was all over BookTube? I do. It was back in 2015, when everyone seems to be talking about. Naturally, I had to read it too and I am still so glad that I did. It was one of my most favourite reads of 2015, and definitely one of the most favourite graphic novels of all times. The art is corky, the humour is terrific, and the world is just pure fun.

If you somehow managed to miss out on the hype, here is the synopsis: it is a story about a snarky and impulsive shapeshifter girl named Nimona. She weasels her way into Lord Blackheart’s service. Lord Blackheart, a local villain, has a certain beef with Institution of Law Enforcement and Heroics and one knight in particular, Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin. Blackheart is convinced that both the Institute and Goldenloin aren’t that goody-goody as they appear. Nimona is willing to help (and cause some serious damage). But there is more than meets the eye to all of them.

I adored Blackheart in the graphic novel. His exasperation with Nimona and deadpan humour are simply the best. I enjoyed the novel a lot, all parts of it. It kept me glued to my couch until I was done with the last page (which made me go ‘awwwwww’, by the way).

Naturally, I had to get my own copy of this comic. And when I accidentally found out that it was made into an audiobook, I just had to have it right now! Moreso, when I learned that Blackheart is voiced by Jonathan Davis - I loved his narration of Catalyst (Star Wars novel) and was even more excited.

Jonathan Davis does an amazing job as Blackheart. I think I liked Blackheart even more (if it is even possible). He doesn’t sound like a villain at all. More like a really exasperated parent, when he is dealing with Nimona. Rebecca Soler really managed to convey both impatience and multifacetedness of Nimona’s character. She sounds like a true villain sidekick! Marc Thompson voices Sir Goldenloin and he is so snotty - he reminds me of posh kids at private schools, who think they are better than everybody else.

To put it shortly, it is a superb cast!

The audiobook also features various sound effects and original music. Understandably, not everything can be translated from a purely visual media to audio, but I think they did a great job. There was one tiny weeny thing that made me sad - and that is the very last frame in the graphic novel that gave me so much hope for those two characters’ relationship (not saying who as it is a spoiler), but it was not conveyed in audio. Implied, but not conveyed. And for me that last frame made all the difference, to be honest. It is a tiny thing, really, but it mattered to me.

Overall, an extremely enjoyable read and a very fun audiobook to listen to. Highly recommend to both graphic novels and audiobook lovers.

Graphic novel: 5 stars

Audiobook: 4.5 stars

Performance: 5 stars

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Book Review: Anya's Ghost by Vera Brosgol

IMG_8995 I usually do not read graphic novels. It is hard for me to find a book with graphics that I really like, and I in general prefer books with more text. The only graphic/comic series that I have ever read, and loved, and am still reading is ElfQuest.

I saw this book recommended on BookTube and I was sort of intrigued. I picked it up from the library, as I didn't want to buy something that I was not going to read again. I decided to read it this morning while having a coffee and it was the quickest and the easiest read ever. I read in about an hour. I think it can be either classified as a middle grade or YA.

I enjoyed the graphics (they are sort of grey-blue, which I like) and the story is very curious. It is about a girl Anya, who struggles with her appearance, the fact that she is not popular at school, that she was not born in America (she is Russian and the book is peppered with some cultural differences/references/Russian words), that she has a crush on a popular guy; she smokes because she thinks it is cool, she tries really hard to fit in, etc. One day she falls into a hole in the ground. There, she meets a ghost of a girl named Emily. The ghost follows her home and wants to be her friend. Anya is excited, because Emily is really helpful, but soon it is starting to become overwhelming.

I found Anya to be a very likeable character, and it was very easy to relate to her, especially for me personally. I think it is a great and easy read and I highly recommend it. I hope that the author will release more books like that.

Rating: 5/5 stars.