Comics: Back issue pick ups.

The past few months I've been a *little* obsessed with adding to my comic book collection. Most of these back issues have been bought very cheaply on comic book selling groups on Facebook and a few from Ebay. 
Above is a mystery box I purchased from someone from a comic selling group that was closing down his comic shop and getting rid of stock. He was offering boxes of comics including variants and silver/bronze age tailored to a particular character. I chose a combination of Wonder Woman, Catwoman and Batgirl. 

 The stars of the lot were the silver age Wonder Woman (which is from 1942!!), the bronze age Batman Family, and WW and the signed Catwoman/Wildcat. I also got a lot of New 52 variants and random issues that have filled in some gaps so I was pretty happy!
I got this Marvel 25th Anniversary Classic X-Men for 75p! I got it just for the fact it was a cool Storm cover and is bordered by Marvel heroes.

One of my favourite comic book artists is Michael Allred, and thanks to Ebay and a seller on a comic group I have added tons of stuff to my Allred collection including It girl and the Atomics, but mainly his marvel X-Force and X-Static. I've nearly filled in all the gaps of all the runs so I can't wait to get reading.
I also picked up some nice Marvel variants at a £1 each on Ebay. These are ones I missed when they came out but have been wanting to add to my collection. The action figure variants are really cool covers, I especially love the Hellcat one.

Some of my favourite indie brands.

Punky Pins
Affordably priced pins, patches and stickers featuring pop culture references and collaborations with artists such as Gemma Flack. They have a really cool Stranger Things range, as well as lots of body positivity and feminism themed stuff. The above is a selection of stuff I got in a mystery pack as well as a few things I chose myself. 
[Punky Pins website]

Life Club
I've bought a couple of things from Life Club now and love their designs. They do beautiful often black and white patches and pins that are often dripping with dark humour and sardonic messages.
[Life Club Etsy]

Naomi Hope Designs
Colourful, fun and quirky jewellery, pins and patches. A lot of her designs are full of humour and reference TV shows (particularly British comedy), and famous people. This is where I got my amazing Louis Theroux patch! 
[Naomi Hope Designs Etsy]

Glitter Punk
Glitter Punk are very similar to Punky Pins except they do cute and cheap pin badges too!
[Glitter Punk website

Sugar and Sloth
Sugar and Sloth do all sorts of cute, colourful and happy things including funny greetings cards, mugs, jewellery, pins and cool badges. A great place to get quirky Christmas presents too.
[Sugar and Sloth website]

Fable & Black
If you are a book lover you will love Fable & Black. They sell bookmarks, prints, mugs, stationery, pins, stickers and more all with a literary theme. I love their stuff and have a little collection of their prints now. Definitely a great place to go for Christmas shopping if you have someone bookish to buy for!

Finally a webstore I've been buying from for years is Qwertee. A UK tee shirt site (very much like Teefury) they sell 3 daily tees in designs that are available for 24 hours only. As well as that they have a store with permanent tee designs and posters. I've got tons of their tees and they are great quality and last well. The designs are always geeky themed and you can vote on which designs should get picked next. Above is one of my most recent purchases.
[Qwertee website]

October reading round up.

The Upstairs Room by Kate Murray-Browne
'Eleanor, Richard and their two young daughters recently stretched themselves to the limit to buy their dream home, a four-bedroom Victorian townhouse in East London. But the cracks are already starting to show. Eleanor is unnerved by the eerie atmosphere in the house and becomes convinced it is making her ill. Whilst Richard remains preoccupied with Zoe, their mercurial twenty-seven-year-old lodger, Eleanor becomes determined to unravel the mystery of the house’s previous owners—including Emily, whose name is written hundreds of times on the walls of the upstairs room. '

From what I'd heard about this I was expecting a gothic ghost story but it was actually a modern relationship drama with a ghost story going on in the background. Regardless I really enjoyed this and like how the writer left things fairly ambiguous. It was a bit of a slow burn and was more character driven but it really got into the characters thoughts and feelings and I liked that. 4/5

Undone by Cat Clarke
'Jem Halliday is in love with her gay best friend. Not exactly ideal, but she's learning to live with it.
Then the unspeakable happens. Kai is outed online ... and he kills himself.
Jem knows nothing she can say or do will bring him back. But she wants to know who was responsible. And she wants to take them down.'

I loved Girlhood by Cat Clarke and wanted to read more of her stuff. This one was ok but just wasn't anywhere near as good in my opinion. I found the story and writing a little cheesy and predictable at times but it handled mental health well and was an enjoyable enough read. 3/5

Broadcast by Liam Brown
'The idea behind MindCast is simple. We insert a small chip into your skull and then every thought, every feeling, every memory is streamed live, twenty-four hours a day. Trust me - within a few months you'll be the most talked about person on the planet.

When David Callow is offered the lead role in a revolutionary new online show, he snatches at the opportunity.

Rapidly becoming a viral sensation, David is propelled to stratospheric levels of celebrity. However, he soon realises the downside of sharing every secret with the world.

A prisoner to both his fame and his own thoughts, David seeks to have the chip removed, only to discover the chilling secret lurking at the heart of MindCast, and the terrifying ambition the show's creator has for him'

This was a really enjoyable and mind bending read. I would maybe compare it to an episode of black mirror in that it a kind of scary dark tale of technology going too far. It is also a (much better) version of The Circle- the new film on Netflix. It explores fame, privacy and social media. I definitely recommend this if you like freaky sci-fi written in a literary style. 4/5

Awake by Natasha Preston
'Scarlett Garner doesn’t remember anything before the age of four—but a car accident changes everything. She starts to remember pieces of a past that frighten her. A past her parents hid from her…and a secret that could get her killed.'

There's not much I can say about this other than this is possibly the worst written book I've ever read.  As soon as I finished it I took to Goodreads and wrote a list of reasons it's terrible here if you are interested! 0/5

The Trouble With Women by Jacky Fleming

The Trouble With Women does for girls what 1066 and All That did for boys: it reminds us of what we were taught about women in history lessons at school, which is to say, not a lot. A brilliantly witty book of cartoons, it reveals some of our greatest thinkers' baffling theories about women. We learn that even Charles Darwin, long celebrated for his open, objective scientific mind, believed that women would never achieve anything important, because of their smaller brains.

Get ready to laugh, wince and rescue forgotten women from the 'dustbin of history', whilst keeping a close eye out for tell-tale 'genius hair'. You will never look at history in the same way again.'

I loved this! Very funny and also eye opening in terms of the real quotes from history. This a satirical look at women in history and how they have constantly been sidelined and ignored. 4/5
DC Super Powers! by Art Baltazar & Franco
'The Eisner Award-winning team behind Tiny Titans creates a new story starring the World's Greatest Super Heroes: Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman!
Aw yeah, the World's Greatest Heroes are back in a new, all-ages tale--except for Batman! Superman helps out by cleaning up in Gotham City, where he discovers a clue that sends Wonder Woman into space to find the Caped Crusader. Her journey brings her a step closer to Batman, but can she uncover the truth behind his disappearance?'

This was fun and the art was colourful but I feel it would be more fun for kids. I felt like some of the story lines were a little all over the place but there were a good selection of characters. 3/5

Shell's guide to... Batgirl

This is part two in my series of comic book character guides to. My first one is here and was a guide to Catwoman. Today I am going to give you a guide to Batgirl...

1. Bat-girl was originally introduced alongside Batwoman as a sidekick to counter the accusations of homoerotic subtext between Batman and Robin! They were intended to be their love interestes respectively. 

2. Aside from those few early appearances she next showed up on the third series of the 1960s Batman TV show played by Yvonne Craig and became a hugely popular character.

3. The character of Batgirl was then properly introduced in the comics as Barbara Gordon who first appeared in 1967 and was the daughter of Gotham Police commissioner (and Batman ally) Jim Gordon. 

4. Her first appearance was in Detective Comics #356 and depicted her driving to a costume party dressed as a female Batman when she helps stop a kidnap attempt of Bruce Wayne. 

5. After that Barbara has a taste for crime fighting although Bruce tells her to stop as she's a girl. Barbara doesn't listen.

6. Aside from her Batgirl persona Barbara is the head of Gotham City library having a Ph.D in library science. So that's Dr. Gordon to you.

7. Batgirl became increasingly popular with comic book readers who wanted her to feature in her own stories. DC responded by posting an open letter in the back of a Detective Comics issue saying: "I'd like to say a few words about the reaction some readers have to Batgirl. These are readers who remember Batwoman and the other Bat-girls from years back ... They were there because romance seemed to be needed in Batman's life. But thanks to the big change and a foresighted editor, these hapless females are gone for good. In their place stands a girl who is a capable crime-fighter, a far cry from Batwoman who constantly had to be rescued [by] Batman."

8. Over the next few decades Batgirl appears regularly fighting in the Justice League, Worlds Finest, and alongside Batman and Superman.

9. In the early 1970s she reveals her alter ego to her father Commissioner Gordon as well as serving as a member of the United States House of Representatives.

10. Batgirl gets her first starring role in 1975 in a new series called Batman Family. She works as part of a duo with the original Robin a.k.a Dick Grayson. 

11. In 1985 DC reboots all it's characters and makes Barbara Gordon Jim Gordon's niece of whom he adopts for.... reasons....?! 

12. In 1988 Batgirl Special #1, a one shot issue, Batgirl is for some reason retired. 

13. This is where it gets controversial. In the same year she appears in The Killing Joke by Alan Moore. Despite not being a part of the story, the Joker shoots and paralyses Barbara Gordon to prove a point to Batman.

14. This story still causes heated debates today about using violence towards female characters as plot devices to further male characters stories. Legendary comic book writer Gail Simone has been particularly vocal about it over the years coining the term 'women in refrigerators'  after a storyline in a Green Lantern comic where he finds his girlfriends mutilated body in a fridge. It's well worth looking up what Gail has to say on the subject, she makes some great points. Alan Moore has since said he regrets the treatment of Batgirl in The Killing Joke, but it is still a sore point amongst fans.

15. Comic book writer Kim Yale wasn't happy with the treatment Barbara had been given, and with the help of her husband comic book writer John Ostrander, brought back Barbara as the Oracle. One of the first prominent comic book characters to have a disability Oracle was the go to for information, and computer hacking wizard who happened to be wheelchair bound. (I'll talk more about the Oracle another time.)

16. Whilst Barbara took on the mantel of Oracle a few women took on the role of Batgirl. Most notably Cassandra Cain and Stephanie Brown. (I will do a separate guide to to both characters some time!)  

17. In 2011 DC rebooted all of their comics with The New 52. It retold all the characters origins and allowed a jumping on point for new readers. During this relaunch Barbara Gordon takes on the role of Batgirl again.

18. In this new reboot Barbara is said to have regained the use of her legs at a clinic in Africa and the story continues three years after with her role as Oracle still as canon and suffering with PTSD and with Gail Simone as the writer. 

19. In the New 52 Batgirl also joins the rebooted Birds of Prey, alongside Black Canary and Huntress. 

20. In 2014, after 5 popular volumes Batgirl is rebooted again. This time Barbara is depicted as a Ph.D student moving to Burnside (a hipster borough of Gotham). Although this series is a lot lighter it features her struggles with PTSD and also ties in her time as Oracle by featuring Barbara using her computer skills to investigate criminals. (Also it features the beautiful artwork of Babs Tarr). 

21. Batgirl of Burnside runs for three volumes until in 2016 when DC was rebooted again under the title or Rebirth. Hope Larson took over the writing of Batgirl but continued with the same feel and tone as Burnside. 

22. Batgirl also appeared as a main character in Rebirths reboot of the Birds of Prey, this time called Batgirl and the Birds of Prey a sisterly gang of tough crime fighters, as well as being part of the DC Bombshells run.

23. Barbara Gordon is a much loved character not only for her fighting abilities but also for her fierce intelligence and kind nature. She is often depicted as a slightly awkward bookish nerd who is often self deprecating and a big admirer of Batman. She is capable, strong, and is a great leader.
And this brings us bang up to date with Barbara Gordon and Batgirl. Now for some recommended reading...

1. Batgirl the Greatest Stories Ever Told. This is a collection of early Batgirl stories that aren't essential but make a fun read. You're best bet of finding this is in a local comic shop.
2. Showcase presents Batgirl Vol.1 (here) A collection of some of her earlier appearances at an affordable price.
3. Batgirl Vol.1 The Darkest Reflection. (here) This is a great point to start with Batgirl and is the first volume of the Gail Simone run and goes on for 5 volumes. 
4. Batgirl Vol.1 Batgirl of Burnside. (here)This is the start of the Stewart/Fletcher/Tarr run and is another great starting point, especially if you want something a little lighter. This is collected into 3 books.
5. Batgirl Vol.1 Beyond Burnside. (here) This is the first book of the current run of Batgirl stories and so far is collected into 2 books.
6. Batgirl & the Birds of Prey Vol.1 (here). Girl power, female friendship and general badassery!

1. Batman '66. Batgirl is introduced in series three of this classic TV show.
2. Birds of Prey (2002). Batgirl features in the fun animated TV series based on the Birds of Prey and is well worth looking up on YouTube.  
3. Batman Lego Movie. Batgirl also features in this years Lego movie and is pretty badass!

So that's my guide to Batgirl. Hope you enjoyed it! Next time: Black Canary.

Blog Tour: Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

'In Shaker Heights, a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, everything is planned -- from the layout of the winding roads, to the colours of the houses, to the successful lives its residents will go on to lead. And no one embodies this spirit more than Elena Richardson, whose guiding principle is playing by the rules. 

Enter Mia Warren -- an enigmatic artist and single mother -- who arrives in this idyllic bubble with her teenage daughter Pearl, and rents a house from the Richardson's. Soon Mia and Pearl become more than tenants: all four Richardson children are drawn to the mother-daughter pair. But Mia carries with her a mysterious past and a disregard for the status quo that threatens to upend this carefully ordered community. 

When old family friends of the Richardson's attempt to adopt a Chinese-American baby, a custody battle erupts that dramatically divides the town--and puts Mia and Elena on opposing sides. Suspicious of Mia and her motives, Elena is determined to uncover the secrets in Mia's past. But her obsession will come at unexpected and devastating costs.'

'All her life, she had learned that passion, like fire, was a dangerous thing. It so easily went out of control. It scaled walls and jumped over trenches. Sparks leapt like fleas and spread rapidly; a breeze could carry embers for miles. Better to control that spark and pass it carefully from one generation to the next, like an Olympic torch. Or, perhaps, to tend it carefully like an eternal flame: a reminder of light and goodness that would never- could never- set anything ablaze. Carefully controlled. Domesticated. Happy in captivity.'

My thoughts...

Simply put Celeste Ng's writing is beautiful. If you haven't read her debut Everything I Never Told You, you really should. In Little Fires Everywhere, Ng creates characters that are so vivid they feel real. She teases their truths as she weaves a story of intrigue that focuses on race, privilege and entitlement. Looking at it from all angles we have the Richardson family- wealthy, comfortable and white. Living life by the rules of their small town, except for black sheep of the family youngest daughter Izzy who sees things quite differently. The there's single mother and artist Mia who never stays put long taking her daughter Pearl with her from state to state making do with the little they have. Finally we have Bebe a young Chinese woman who works hard, doesn't have much, and is fighting fiercely for her daughter after a regretful mistake. Every single one of these characters is well fleshed out and explored as we see how a making a small mistake can have such a huge effect for these people. 

The plot is beautifully crafted. Everything gradually falls into place in a natural way right down to every tiny detail. Everything flows so perfectly, I found myself re-reading passages as I wanted to both devour the story but also savour the words. I feel like my review could never give this book justice. It made me smile and it made me cry. Thank you Celeste Ng for writing such a masterpiece.

In short this book is breathtaking. Read it.

'Sometimes you need to scorch everything to the ground and start over. After the burning the soil is richer, and new things can grow. People are like that, too. They start over. They find a way.'

Little Fires Everywhere can be purchased here
and don't forget to check out the other stops on the blog tour!

[Huge thanks to Grace at Little Brown Book Group for allowing me to be a part of this blog tour and providing me with a copy of the book for honest review]