An Otherworldly Graphic Adventure: “Eartha” by Cathy Malkasian

An Otherworldly Graphic Adventure: “Eartha” by Cathy MalkasianEartha by Cathy Malkasian
on April 4th 2017
Format: Hardcover
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Malkasian’s stunning landscapes and depictions of nature, gestural character nuance, and sophisticated storytelling are on display in her latest graphic novel. For a thousand years, the unfinished dreams―sex fantasies, murder plots, wishful thinking―from the City Across the Sea came to Echo Fjord to find sanctuary. Emerging from the soil, they took bodily form and wandered the land, gently guided by the fjord folk. But recently they've stopped coming, and Eartha wants solve the mystery. Without thought or hesitation―the city isn’t on any map, or in anyone’s memory―she ventures into the limitless waters, hoping to find the City.

I had almost no clue what to expect when I picked up Eartha at the library, but as it turns out, stumbling across it in the stacks was serendipitous. Never before have I been so truly captivated by a graphic novel. To say that Eartha has set a new bar for the potential I’ve come to expect of a graphic novel is an understatement. The fantastic art is only where this graphic novel’s merits begin!

 

The art in Eartha is breathtaking — muted and soft, yet capable of depicting grand scenes and detailed characters with apparent ease. I couldn’t help but linger on each gorgeous panel. Malkasian does incredible things with some pencil and a bit of color! The earth tones and light blues, greens, and purples are calming and dreamlike, easy on the eyes, and a great showcase for the exquisite lines and details. The rolling, generous curves of Echo Fjord’s rural landscape contrast nicely with the well-ordered, lofty lines of the City.

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Though it’s hard to tear your eyes away from the landscapes, the characters in Eartha wage a good war for your attention. Malkasian doesn’t shy away from drawing large, detailed characters. Most of all, her characters aren’t always good-looking: they often border on ugly. But she creates lively, expressive characters that steal the scene in each panel. Each character feels individual and interesting, with their own personality and quirks. Diversity in the characters abounds in a very natural way. One of my favorite characters is Old Lloyd, a senior archivist and “the most cantankerous resident of Echo Fjord” — he’s unapologetically blunt, crafty when he needs to be, and colorful, yet caring.

But I definitely have a soft spot for our title character and heroine, Eartha. Though she’s soft-spoken, Eartha helps binds the the story together.

Though larger by far than anyone else in her home of Echo Fjord, she’s incredibly strong (particularly physically!), kind, and compassionate. She’s much beloved by her friends and neighbors, and is always helping them out and carrying things when she can. She’s open and friendly, to the point of being gullible at times. Her thoughts are very honest, and though Eartha cares deeply about others, she’s not always as sure about her own place or purpose in things.

Eartha is described as a modern fable; as in any fairy tale, Eartha sets off alone on a journey to save her home. Echo Fjord has always been refuge for the dreams and fantasies of the folks in the City Across the Sea. The Dreams, taking a semi-physical form that resembles each dreamer, wander the countryside under the supervision of Eartha’s people until they can live out whatever dream it is they have. But after hundreds upon hundreds of years, the Dreams mysteriously stop coming.

Though Eartha believes that she is leaving Echo Fjord to save a friend, her journey brings her to the City Across the Sea, where she must help the people to dream once more. It’s an enormous task, but one perfectly suited to Eartha. Despite the terrible truths and and strange ways of life she encounters in the City, watching Eartha come into her own and discover her own power is something to behold.

But what gets me so incredibly excited about Eartha is its unique fantasy world — dreamlike, a little vague, but rooted in ordinary life. Echo Fjord isn’t anywhere that we know of, but its magic isn’t anything so astounding as say, Rowling’s wizarding world or Tolkien’s high fantasy world. The people of Echo Fjord live pleasant, ordinary lives as farmers and tradesmen, and Eartha’s personal relationships, both new and old, are what form the heart of the story. It just so happens that animals can talk, and that Dreams are harvested along with the regular crops…

I love everything about the Dreams that make their way to Echo Fjord. The idea of our dreams taking physical form is simply brilliant! Without warning, Dreams rise from the ground. The people of Echo Fjord wait for them, holding the Dreams down until a shadow mason can arrive. A shadow is applied to the Dream, grounding it in Echo Fjord so that it won’t float away. Once its dream — a revenge fantasy, a nightmare, a wish — is played out to fulfillment, the Dream steps out into the fields and dissolves, leaving behind only the ashes of its shadow, which are soon swept up. I just love it!

There’s so much more to the story: a strange phenomenon that has swept across the City, a terrible cult-like gang that runs things, and insurgents fighting the system. Eartha is helped by new friends, and learns about the necessity of Dreams and personal connection in the face of pressures to stay “connected” and “in the know.” It’s an amazing ride of a story!

*** Just as a note, there is some sexual imagery, but mature readers likely won’t be bothered by it.

Gorgeous art, touching characters and an amazing fantasy world: Eartha is a triumph of imagination.

4 “Brainy” Reads That You Won’t Want to Put Down

As an English major, reading classics and ultra-literary books kinda goes along with the territory — but that doesn’t mean that I was always on board with it.

In fact, there may or may not have been a rather embarrassing email encounter with the head professor of the English department my freshman year in which I tried to worm my way out of taking some of the more antiquated required courses. Of course, I ended up taking and enjoying them. I even took a course with the very professor I had emailed before, and I loved it so much that I immediately signed up for another one of his courses just on Virginia Woolf (now my favorite course ever).

Obviously, it makes no sense to disregard an entire genre of books, no matter how old and dusty they may seem. (Do beware of excessively musty books, however, as they make for an unpleasant reading experience!) You might cheat yourself out of some truly fantastic books and new perspectives if you don’t give certain books a fair shot.

So in an attempt to help us all move past book prejudices, I thought I’d share some of the “brainy” books — classics, “must reads,” and soon-to-be-classics — that I’ve found to be surprisingly readable, valuable, and pleasurable, so much so that I’ve had to change my views on classics. Enjoy!

1) Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

I know, I know, I can’t believe that it took me so long to read this one either. Is it possible for a classic to be over-hyped? It seems to be on every book list ever, so I think I just got a bit intimidated.

After seeing and enjoying the 2005 movie adaptation, I figured that I probably wouldn’t need to read the book (gasp!). But I did end up reading it later on for a class. As I was starting the book, most everything seemed similar to me; much of the dialogue and many of the famous lines are preserved in the adaptation. But the more I read, the more differences I noticed. Most of them were subtle, but by the end of the book I was re-watching movie scenes and yelling “That’s not how they did it in the book!” like a true book snob.

I still love both the book and movie, but something about the book just really submerges you in Austen’s world so deeply — I’m fairly certain I was talking like Austen’s characters near the end. Really delving into the nuances of the social forces at work in the era makes Lizzy and Darcy’s romance all the more remarkable, and Austen’s writing is whip-smart and a pleasure to read.

2) Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert

I can still remember my disappointment when this was assigned for class. Another old book with the typical stock painting of a woman in a fancy dress? (My cover was not quite so fetching as this one.)

Yet Madame Bovary is anything but boring — it’s as drama-filled a classic as you’re bound to find. Affairs, sickness, scandals, and debts abound, and I was certainly glued to the pages as our tragic heroine, Emma, spirals out of control. She certainly toes the line as a character: do you hate her, feel sorry for her, or do you feel a mix of both for her? Emma is unforgettable.

Many other characters in the book are similarly fleshed out and given intriguing portraits. The entire book is filled with rich description that brings Emma’s world to life. My professor’s perspective helped me to appreciate the pioneering narrative style, as well as the intense realism Flaubert created that had all the women of France claiming to be the inspiration for Emma. I was also intrigued by the long literary tradition Madame Bovary follows in which people (especially women) fall so hard for the fantasy worlds of novels that they confuse the boundaries of life and fiction. (Ah, the classic book blogger’s dilemma).

3) Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf

I’ll never be able to speak my fill about Mrs. Dalloway, but hear me out in the small space I’ve allotted myself here. I’ve read the book three times now, and I still have new revelations every time I read it. 

It’s complex in some ways, as Woolf’s flow-of-consciousness style and use of multiple POVs are challenging at first, though ultimately rewarding. But it’s also deeply relatable in the emotions of its characters, and in its portrayal of life lived day-to-day, even hour to hour (the book is set over the course of a day, interrupted by flashbacks). Woolf drops you directly into the characters’ minds, exposing their deepest fears and desires in such a way that each character is rendered painfully and endearingly human. Some of her characters are middle-aged, foreigners, or PTSD sufferers, yet each strives to be understood, and longs for connection.  

Besides the gorgeous writing and incredible characterization, Mrs. Dalloway details a bustling and changing post-WWI London quite intimately. Thanks to the book’s style, you feel like you’re walking right alongside the characters: buying flowers, gawking at the royal motorcade, bumping into old friends, riding omnibuses, and people-watching (or napping) in parks.

4) “This Morning, This Evening, So Soon” by James Baldwin

A recent professor of mine said that James Baldwin is one of her favorite writers, and I think her passion has rubbed off me. Though “This Morning, This Evening, So Soon” is only a short story, it packs quite a punch and really puts you in the mind of its unnamed narrator, the main character.

Our narrator is an outsider in so many ways: he’s a foreigner, an American expat living abroad in Paris, speaking a language of which he has no native understanding; he is a black man living in the Civil Rights era, alienated from his own country which refuses to see him as an equal. Yet his struggles are also so relatable: he is a husband, striving for a deep connection free of judgements; he is a father, wrestling with lessons of the past that he must teach his son; he is a man, trying to make his way in the world as he is divided by different loyalties spanning borders, boundaries, and time.

All in all, Baldwin’s story is an absorbing, solidly penned piece with a distinctly modern sensibility. The story’s scope is nearly epic, taking on so many human problems while also jumping in time and location, though its straightforward narration helps ground it. It’s unlikely that I’ll forget this story any time soon, and I’d love to read more of Baldwin’s work.

Share your thoughts on my list! What are some of your favorite “brainy” reads?

A Quick Update, Or, Where I’ve Been and What’s to Come

I really want to jump back into blogging, but first, an update!

It’s been a long time since my last post. Not only have I had a few technical problems with my blog in the last few months, but this past year has also been a year full of change and “firsts.” For starters, I finally got around to taking my first computer science course, and I’m hoping I can use my new skills on this blog!

Besides being occupied with classes and internships, I’ve started to come to terms with my changing reading tastes and tendencies. I only read five YA books last year; not only is my taste in YA books becoming more selective, but generally the books I’m reading during the year are all for my English major.

But I still have plenty of literary thoughts and creative ideas, and I value my blog as an outlet for sharing them. (Plus, I really miss being inspired by the book blogging community!) Most likely, I’ll be doing far less reviews and many more thoughtful posts, some of which might be less directly tied to specific books and have more to do with other things — like travel. (Travel? Travel and reading? Fabulous bookstores abroad?!) I’m going to be studying abroad in Spain this semester (!!!), and who knows what I’ll feel like blogging about?

So, if you’re still reading, thanks for sticking around! I hope to reconnect with the blogs I love to read and to connect with new bloggers and readers as well.

A virtual hug for the book blogging community

End of Semester As Told by a Book Nerd

This is Lina reporting to you LIVE from the land of the living. Yes, I repeat, from the land of the LIVING!

Finals are over, and though it was a hard slog, dead week is finally behind meBut you know what got me through? Visions of gloriously uninterrupted reading hours dancing in my head. A fifteen page paper? Torture. But when I imagined reading in my favorite spot back home as soon as I finished, getting through the paper suddenly became more worthwhile.

 So I thought I’d share the book-ish thoughts that were constantly distracting me from getting me through finals week — a book nerd’s guide to the stages of the end of the semester, if you will. Those of us who have just finished can laugh now, and I hope anyone who might still be finishing can find the strength to push through (do it for the books!!).

Also, I’m an English major attending college waaaaay out of state. This comes with a few unique challenges!

Onto the guide!

End of Semester

Step 1: Knowing the end is near when… you change your Goodreads shipping address!

You know the Goodreads giveaway contests we all enter that nearly no one has a chance of winning? Well, turns out they’re good for something besides that small spark of hope. For me at least, if I check the end date of the giveaway and see that it’s past the time finals end, I have to uncheck my school address and switch to my home address — and there’s NO better feeling!

Step 2: Daydreaming while writing a paper about ALL THE BOOKS YOU WILL DEVOUR.

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Sure, I might have a lot more pages to write, but what about all the pages I’ll be reading when I finally get home?! There’s the books I had to leave at home (I’m so sorry, my pretties!) that are just waiting for me, and all those holds I’ve already placed at the library… say, will summer be long enough for all the books I want to read?

Step 3: Staring longingly at the pleasure reading books you have accumulated.

It isn’t long before I remember that I have great books in my dorm, too! Even if I’m in the middle of a paper, I will take a study break to climb on top of my desk to reach my bookshelf, if only to give my sadly neglected books a little TLC. I might longingly stroke the gorgeous preorders I absolutely needed even if didn’t have time to read them, but also the ridiculously great finds I discovered at the local bookstore that I couldn’t pass up, as well as the books others were giving away for free that I just had to give a home…

Step 4: Worrying about how all your books will f it in your suitcase.

do have quite a few books… how am I supposed to bring them all home safe and sound?! They’re really heavy, and if I put them in my soft suitcase they’ll be crushed! But they might not all fit in my hard suitcase… (As always, I finally decide to carry on as many as I can because my babies need protection.)

Step 5: Reviving your Kindle from the dead for the plane ride home.

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Planning how to spend my flight home easily trumps revising my papers! Somehow I inevitably find myself digging through my stuff to find my Kindle charger, and voilà, IT LIVES!! It wouldn’t hurt to place it in my carry on bag now, just to be safe…

Step 6: Getting back in touch with the book world on social media!

The best reward for reaching my essay page count for the day is to sneak a peek at Twitter for a bit! In the finals crunch, it’s too easy to feel out of the loop book-wise, but just a few moments on Twitter is enough to remind me of all the creative, fun bookish people out there and the amazing new books coming out! (And there’s Instagram if I feel like drooling over ARCs and new releases, haha!)

Step 7: Catching up on author newsletter emails!

It kills me when I have to let author emails pile up in my inbox. If I’m snatching a quick meal before getting back to work, I love to read email newsletters while waiting for my food, always hoping I haven’t missed any awesome giveaways!

Step 8: Selling back your unneeded textbooks and getting money FOR MORE BOOKS!!

This calls for a book shimmy.

The moment finally comes when IT’S ALL OVER, and it’s time to start packing up! There’s absolutely nothing better than gathering up the textbooks I’ve used all semester and selling them back to the bookstore for — wait for it — $money$ for MORE NEW BOOKS! It’s a brilliant system, just brilliant!


How do you get through the end of the semester when all you want to do is read?!

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GIVEAWAY: “27 Days to Midnight” by Kristine Kruppa!

Wow, it’s been quite a while since I posted, hasn’t it?

I never really intended to take a hiatus, but that’s what it’s tuned into. Sophomore year of college has been no joke.

But I am briefly emerging from this unplanned hiatus for a VERY good reason!

The wonderful publisher I interned with this past summer, Giant Squid Books, has a new YA steampunk novel coming out in early May!  I had a great time working with the editors, and I’ve seen firsthand how incredibly dedicated they are to supporting their authors.

Which is why I’m so excited to be hosting a GIVEAWAY of an advance copy of their upcoming book, 27 Days to Midnight, by debut author Kristine Kruppa!

“… a surprising, thrilling ride set in a vivid steampunk universe”

But first, a little bit about 27 Days to Midnight!

29413642Everyone in Dahlia’s world knows when they’re going to die. Except her.

Her father has never shown her the pocket watch counting down the days she has left to live. When he sacrifices himself to save her from her scheduled death, Dahlia abandons her comfortable home and sets off after his murderer to uncover the secrets her father died to protect…and the time research that could bring him back to life.

Then she meets Farren Reed. She should hate him. He’s an enemy soldier, a cowardly deserter, and the most insufferable man Dahlia’s ever met. Still, she needs all the help she can get, and Farren is the only chance she has to find the man who murdered her father. But Farren has only twenty-seven days left on his watch.

In that time, Dahlia must recover her father’s time research, foil a psychotic general’s plot, and learn to survive in a world that will never be the same. But the research holds secrets more dangerous than she had ever imagined. She will have to choose what is most important: revenge, Farren’s life, or her own. And time is running out.

And get to know author Kristine Kruppa as well!

Author Photo_credit Sunny Wong,

Kristine Kruppa is a mechanical engineer, writer, and world traveler. Her days are spent designing cool new car parts, but her evenings are filled with writing and cats. She has traveled solo to seventeen countries on five continents. Her other hobbies include hunting for the perfect cup of coffee, exploring used book stores, and accidentally climbing mountains. To keep up with her adventures, follow Kristine on Twitter @kskruppa.

You can enter the giveaway below! My the odds be ever in your favor.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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