Blog Tours · Reviews

BLOG TOUR REVIEW!! Together by Luke Adam Hawker

‘Dark clouds were looming in the distance. We watched them gather, and we wondered… When will it come? How long will it last?’

A monumental storm brings huge and sudden change. We follow a man and his dog through the uncertainty that it brings to their lives.

Through their eyes, we see the difficulties of being apart, the rollercoaster of emotions that we can all relate to, and the realisation that by pulling together we can move through difficult times with new perspective, hope and an appreciation of what matters most in life.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from Together when I signed up to this blog tour. Whilst I enjoy reading the occasional graphic novel (I wrote a post about some of my favourites that you can find here), this sounded more like an illustrated fable akin to Charlie Mackesy’s The Boy, the Mole, the Fox, and the Horse. And whilst those sort of books are undoubtedly beautiful, they can sometimes risk being a little twee.

Like The Boy, the Mole, the Fox, and the Horse however, Hawker’s Together avoids being either twee or moralistic despite the importance and scope of its subject matter. Instead, as we follow one man and his dog through the uncertainty bought into their lives by a sudden and monumental storm, the book provides a thoughtful and meditative reflection upon the changes that the Covid-19 bought into our lives during 2020.

Marianne Laidlaw has provided sparse yet philosophical words to accompany Hawker’s rich and detailed black and white drawings, and the two combine together to provide a beautiful and meaningful reflection on the ways we find togetherness, even if we’re forced to be physically apart.

As you can see from the above page example, this isn’t a lengthy book or one filled with dense prose – you can read the whole thing in about 10 minutes. But reading the book from cover to cover once isn’t, I think, really the point of Together.

Sure you can do that and you’ll probably think it’s a sweet story with some lovely art. But it’s a book that invites you to return to certain lines or certain illustrations and to reflect. On what life was like ‘before’, how it has been ‘during’, and what it might be like ‘after’. On what things you want to let go of and what you want to keep. Of connections made – and those that need to be given more attention.

Hawker dedicates the book to his grandfather, who he credits with being the inspiration for his main character, and Together reminded me of my own much-missed grandfather, and all the ways in which I am thankful for his influence in my life – as well as for the family, friends, neighbours, tutors and colleagues who have been there to support me throughout this last year. That might seem a little glib – it’s difficult to translate a feeling into words – but it’s what I ended up reflecting on after putting down Hawker’s book.

Together won’t be for everyone – I suspect that many bookshops will place it firmly in the ‘gift book’ category and indeed the stunningly produced hardback would make a beautiful gift for a loved on in your life. Like The Boy, the Mole, the Fox, and the Horse however, this is a quiet but powerful book that provides a way of reflecting on both the strange and unusual times we have recently found ourselves in, and of provoking conversations about both the losses and gains we may have seen during that time.

Together by Luke Adam Hawker (words by Marianne Laidlaw) is published by Kyle Books and is available now from all good bookstores and online retailers including Hive, Bookshop.org, Waterstones, and Wordery.

If you can, please support a local indie bookshop by ordering from them either in person or online! Some of my favourites include Booka Bookshop, The Big Green BookshopSam Read BooksellersBook-ishScarthin Books, and Berts Books

My thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy of the book in return for an honest and unbiased review, and to Anne Cater from Random Things Tours for organising and inviting me onto this blog tour. The tour continues until 24 April 2021 so do check out the other stops for more reviews and content.

Reviews on The Shelf are free, honest, and unbiased and I don’t use affiliate links on my posts. However if you enjoy the blog please consider buying me a coffee on Ko-Fi!

Discussion Time · Random Bookish Things · Reviews

Graphic Novel Recommendations

Graphic NovelsEvery so often I like to take a break from novels and hefty non-fiction tomes and settle down with something a bit different. Short stories aren’t generally my bag but I LOVE a good graphic novel.

Graphic novels provide a completely different reading experience. The best graphic novels, for me anyway, use a combination of text and art to lead the reader through the pages.

They’re a reading experience that is both fast and slow. Quite often, they can be read relatively speedily if you just read through the text start to finish. But often I find I’m drawn to savour them, the lavish art inviting me to return to examine each frame and search for additional details that provide texture to the narrative.

In today’s post, I wanted to share a few of my favourite graphic novels with you. I’m by no means a graphic novel expert – I wasn’t one of those kids who devoured Marvel and DC throughout my childhood- but these titles have all earned a place on my shelves and I’ve re-read the majority of them more than once. Many of them are also standalone titles, making them great for anyone who is new to the genre.

NimonaNimona, Noelle Stevenson

Noelle Stevenson’s Nimona is, technically, a YA graphic novel but don’t let that put you off because it’s a fabulously funny romp featuring an impulsive young shapeshifter with anger management issues, a dastardly supervillain who definitely doesn’t have a heart of gold, and a set of good guys with more than a few dark secrets up their sleeves.

Stephenson’s art is simple and colourful but wonderfully effective, and the narrative combines some laugh out loud humour with a touching story about friendship, love, and finding your place in the world.

Bloodlust&BonnetsBloodlust & Bonnets, Emily McGovern

Emily McGovern’s webcomic My Life as a Background Slytherin has been making me laugh for quite some time now so I was delighted when she released her first full-length graphic novel earlier this year.

In a hilarious pastiche of Romantic literature, Bloodlust & Bonnets sees bored debutante Lucy team up with exuberant poet Lord Byron and dashing ‘definitelystayinginthefriendzone’ bounty hunter Shem in pursuit of notorious vampire Lady Violet Travesty.

Poking fun at the tropes of the gothic novel, vampire literature, and romance, Emily’s clean and simple art style perfectly complements the joyous, action-packed romp. The novel has also been beautifully coloured by Rebekah Rarely.

A Study in EmeraldA Study in Emerald, Neil Gaiman

Sherlock Holmes meets Cthulu. Where do I sign?

I adore Neil Gaiman’s writing and this short story, which follows a famous consulting detective and his partner as they attempt to solve a horrific murder within the murky darkness of Lovecraftian London, has that perfect Gaiman blend of the fantastical and the dangerous.

Brilliantly adapted into a graphic novel format with stunning art by Rafael Alburquerque, script by Rafael Scavone and colours by Dave Stewart, A Study in Emerald is a dark, creepy tale that has a fantastic twist in its tale.

Shoutout also to Gaiman’s gloriously feminist take on the Sleeping Beauty myth, The Sleeper and the Spindle, which is accompanied by stunning black and white art by Chris Riddell.

GiganticBeardThe Gigantic Beard That Was Evil, Stephen Collins

Collins’ wonderfully shaded monochrome art sets off a poignant story of belonging and acceptance in this quirky tale which sees Dave, one of the many residents on the buttoned-down island of Here, suddenly assailed by a terrifying monster: a giant, unstoppable beard.

As Dave gradually begins to embrace his new facial fur, he also starts to relish difference, stepping outside of the familiarities of Here. But what will the other residents do when Dave risks bringing the unknown terrors of There into their safe and closeted world?

Seemingly simple, there is surprising depth in this fantastical tale that has all too many parallels to the world we live in today.

QuietGirlQuiet Girl in a Noisy World: An Introvert’s Story, Debbie Tung

I genuinely think Debbie Tung might have rooted around in my head to write this.

Sweet, funny, and poignant, the comic sequences collected here reveal the many ups and downs of introvert life.

From the emotional drain that accompanies even the best of social events, to the sheer joy that can be found in curling up with a book, a cat, and a cup of tea, Tung’s sharp observations and delicate sketches capture the enchantment and awkwardness of introversion.

Honorable Mentions

The Encyclopedia of Early Earth, Isabel Greenberg: A fascinating alternative history of the world that embraces a number of creation myths and weaves them into a magical story of enlightenment and true love.

Mooncop, Tom Gauld: A short, stark and wonderfully droll tale of everyday life on a lunar colony. Gauld’s brilliantly simple art style is an absolute joy.

Rat QueensKurtis J Wiebe: The first couple of volumes of this series are a raucous delight of booze, death, and sex that follow an all-female team of death-dealers for hire. Sadly the series has, in my opinion, tailed off in terms of quality as it’s developed, but the first couple of volumes are well worth checking out if you don’t mind reading a graphic series that’s most definitely NSFW.

Bitch Planet, Kelly Sue Deconnick & Valentine De Landro: Another NSFW series focusing on kick-ass ladies. Based on the titular Bitch Planet, a prison planet for non-conforming women, this comic unapologetically embraces the feminist agenda in a raw, captivating, and brutal exploration of exploitation and resistance.

So, those were some of my favourite graphic novels! I hope this post will encourage you to pick up a few of my recommended titles – if you do, then please do let me know what you think in the comments.

I’m also open to suggestions for some more graphic novels to read so please do let me know your own favourites.

And, until next time, Happy Reading!