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The Return!

Hello!! It’s been a while hasn’t it? Where is this year going?!

Why the hiatus I hear you cry? Well, it’s been a hectic summer for me as wedding season hit – both my sister and best friend decided to get married (not to each other you understand!) and so I’ve been bridesmaiding it up all over the shop!

It’s been manic, lovely, stressful, enjoyable and emotional but as a result books haven’t been my main priority over the last few months. My reading levels have dramatically dropped as I’ve been replacing commuter reading on the train with podcasts and walking in the sunshine. But, just like the dark mornings and cold winter chill, I can assure you that I am back!

I’m trying to find a way back to blogging so bear with me this month – a girl needs to find the words again! – but I am planning a few festive posts so keep your eyes peeled…

In the meantime, as regular TTWers know, I absolutely love the graphic novels by Lucy Knisley and so, to ease me back into this reviewing malarkey, I thought I’d try Knisley’s latest offering – a perfect fit given my recent escapades into the world of “I dos”, wedding cakes and white dresses…

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Knisley’s narrative and artwork style is light-hearted, funny and so accessible that I read the entire 304-page book in two days. It’s a memoir, a momento and a memory box of one specific, hectic time in a relationship and Knisley doesn’t hide the experience behind rose-tinted glasses. There are dramas, arguments and frustrations as much as there are heart-warming, romantic and genuinely lovely moments.

For curious singletons and unmarrieds (of which I am one!), this is an amazing insight to the journey down the aisle from the perspective of someone in the thick of it. It feels so personal and yet universal, a balance Knisley is always adept in creating. Her narrative voice is relatable and fun, and the personality injected through both art and voice allows the other to sing.

Something New is more than a play-by-play of a single wedding day. Knisley goes back to describe how her new husband both broke and mended her heart, how he proposed and why they decided to have the wedding they did. It’s a story and a journey and I love that Knisley and her husband allowed their tale to be told. I can’t wait for the next instalment!

4 star

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Travel and Discovery

 

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Regular readers of TTW will be aware that I am a big fan of Lucy Knisley’s graphic novels and I am therefore slowly making my way through them. Relish and French Milk were utter delights so I was really looking forward to this illustrated travelogue about exploring Europe and developing into adulthood.

Similar to French Milk, Lucy is writing and illustrating a moment in her life when she’s exploring new places and meeting new people on an extended tour of Europe, facilitated by a Swedish comic convention. It is a tad self-involved but that’s because it’s a glimpse into Lucy’s world and what is happening to her in that moment in time – if you don’t like diaries, this travelogue is not for you.

Lucy’s way of writing and illustrating is fresh and chatty. I don’t get the feeling she writes for any audience in particular but rather writes for herself which creates a graceful ease to her tone and imagery. It sometimes feels a privilege to have been given such an honest and raw insight into a difficult and confusing time.

The only criticism I would level at the book is that everything felt a bit rushed. I would have preferred a longer book with greater pauses in the narrative, one that explored the people and places visited in more depth. I get the feeling that if Lucy had just pulled back the curtain a little more, An Age of License would have had more complexity and would have emphasised the personal journey over and above the depiction of a European trip. That being said…

The concept behind the title is revealed later on in the book but I absolutely loved it. A man in France tells Lucy that your twenties herald ‘the age of license’ in your life – a fluid time when you have license to try new things, make mistakes and generally find who you are and what you want to be and/or do and it’s a sentiment I adore. I am currently within my age of license and sometimes let the fear take hold, which prevents me from being as gung-ho as I probably should! From this book I will take with me the idea that I should be making bolder decisions and acting with more daring because if I can’t in the Age Of License, when will I?!

4 star

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A Graphic Look at Paris

French Milk

My last night in Chicago for six weeks, and unseasonably warm for December.

I was first introduced to the entertaining Lucy Knisley last year when I read her book Relish (review here). I completely adored her quirky writing and accompanying illustration style and found Relish so accessible and effortless that it wasn’t long before I set out in search of more, turning my attention to her back catalogue.

French Milk is Knisley’s debut into the world of graphic novels and it follows the 22 year-old Knisley as she embarks on a 6-week stay in Paris with her foodie mum.

French Milk has a charmingly naïve style, reading and presented like an illustrated holiday journal or travelogue rather than a traditional memoir. Knisley is like a giddy schoolchild showing you her spoils – telling you what she did every day, drawing all of her holiday purchases, describing where she went and how she felt. It took a little while for me to get used to this more primitive style and voice because it felt so different to the polished and composed narrator I loved in Relish so lovers of the more developed Knisley, be warned – this is a different beast.

The benefits to Knisley’s early naive journalistic narrative is how effortlessly the excitement of the Parisian streets and the enthusiasm for that beautiful city comes across. You will have to forgive the occasional bout of late teenage angst – we’ve all had it at some point! – because beneath the surface is an interesting view of an immersive experience of life in the French capital. French Milk genuinely had me on the verge of packing my bags and heading to Paris again – or at least looking into booking a flat there for New Year’s (I even went so far as asking the boy about doing this one day!)

If you’re coming to graphic novels or Knisley’s work for the first time, French Milk is a fab introduction – though far from perfect, it is light-hearted, easy to read and will immerse and whisk you to the French capital before you can say croissant!

3 star

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Toast Of The Town

Relish

Relish: My Life in the Kitchen is a graphic novel and memoir about food and a childhood spent in the kitchen. Lucy Knisley’s sumptuous novel takes the audience on a culinary journey through her history of growing up surrounded by food and foodies. The small chapters and vignettes highlight particularly memorable table top tales and creates a literary food-envy that you won’t believe!

I loved the chatty and relaxed style that Lucy not only writes in but illustrates in – it’s not only reminiscent of the warm hub of a homely kitchen but transports you straight there too! There’s a cuddly and comforting feel to the palate (colour not taste!) and the bite-sized chapters are a perfect length for little insights into Lucy’s food history.

Her childhood was obviously food-centric but it’s not alienating to an audience whose childhood wasn’t. Her stories have a human interest to them too – the teenage rebellion against parental control, trying to adapt to country life when the city is all you’ve ever known, dealing with the demands of a broken up family, etc. Her flashbacks dip in and out of the present day and offer a small insight into where all her ‘characters’ (friends and family) are now which is a really nice touch and adds true realism to this otherwise unusual style of memoir.

This is a perfect book or gift for a foodie and yet Lucy is not a food snob. She appreciates the beauty of homemade pesto and the dedication it takes to learn about cheese and grow your own fruit and veg and yet sneaks off for a cheeky McDonalds whilst in Rome, much to the horror of her father! I raced through this graphic novel and not just because I love food – point me in the direction of a farmer’s market and I am one happy bunny! It’s light-hearted, informative and interesting and inspires some great food ideas along the way. The style and structure makes Relish an easy read to dip in and out of but it will also just grab you and take you on the author’s journey so be prepared to read cover to cover!

4 star

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Facing Evil Exes

Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Life

Sometimes in life you need some light entertainment from your bookshelf and when that time hits… Scott Pilgrim should be your next go-to guy! He isn’t worried that his band is coasting or that he doesn’t know what he wants to do with his life. He’s a 23-year-old who bums around from day to day sponging off his flatmate and landlord until he encounters one girl (no, not his high-school girlfriend I hasten to add…) who turns his life from ordinary to extraordinary.

Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life is a quirky graphic novel that follows its protagonist’s lead in not taking itself too seriously – it’s hipster and sarcastic with classic and cultural references galore! However, worry not it’s still measured and simple enough in its delivery that it won’t alienate readers. It was an exceptionally speedy and entertaining read with witty dialogue and fun, interesting characters which sets up the series nicely.

Despite being a very fun character to read about, I did find it very difficult to actually like Scott. He’s very much someone who expects things to happen to or for him and is happy to manipulate situations and take advantage of people – not something I can admire I’m afraid! However whilst Scott wasn’t exactly a character I could connect to, I found Ramona Flowers utterly fascinating! I mean, living in a world in which your ex still exists can be hard enough but imagine a world where all your exes not only exist but are evil and any new boyfriend has to do battle with them in order to date you… amazingly awkward!

I imagine I will dip in and out of this series when I need some light-hearted fun, if not to catch up with SP but to find more about a colourful yet mysterious girl and her interesting past!

3 star