Reviews: 6/4-6/17

Caged
by Ellison Cooper

What a thrilling ride! The search for a serial killer in DC leads Senior Special Agent Sayer Altair on a hunt through mythology and science. One great thing I really loved this book for is when a transgender character was introduced, no one misgendered him even after they found out. I give major brownie points to an author who understands the right way to gender people. The mystery itself is a wild chase, with twist after twist that are all worth it. There’s no sudden out-of-nowhere plot device that figures in this book. Everything is based on deduction and science. I definitely recommend it if you’re not a big serial killer reader like me; it hits the right balance of mystery and thrills without feeling overly reliant on serial killer tropes.

Nickel and Dimed
by Barbara Ehrenreich

This book was the result of an experiment to see how long she could live on minimum wage jobs. It’s a really good look into the world of waitressing, housework, and Wal-Mart workers. A surprise to few of us, wages were too low often to cover rent plus food and other expenses. But the reason she did this was not to tell people like us, the minimum wage workers of the world, but to explain to her middle class peers what life is truly like for the bottom percent of the country. It’s a fascinating read (and one that’ll make you hate Wal-Mart even more than you probably already do).

Death Notice
by Zhou Haohui

Oh god, I could talk for days about this book. Just… everyone go out to your library and get a copy. I’ll wait.

….

Are you back? Good. Now we can dish.

The plot revolves around the return of a vigilante named Eumenides, who goes around killing those who have gotten away with crimes the police can’t touch (either because they were acquitted or never caught). Before each killing, Eumenides sends a death notice, a paper saying who is going to die, what their crimes are, and when they’re going to die. Even when the police try and protect the victim, somehow Eumenides reaches them.

But there’s more going on than just Eumenides. Each member of the newly reformed 4/18 task force has something to hide, and something to find. With secrets hidden just below the surface, ones that could bring the task force down from the inside, plus the connection between cases old and new, Death Notice has twists and turns that’ll throw you for a loop, but will keep you completely enthralled. Just beware: this is only part one.

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Reviews: 5/28-6/3

Julian is a Mermaid
by Jessica Love

This was really cute. Julian sees three mermaids on the train and decides he’s a mermaid, too. Instead of punishing him for taking down the curtains for his mermaid tail, his abuela takes him to the parade where the mermaids were going.

The art is very lush, full of color and movement. Most of the story is told through the art, but the writing is solid, too. Definitely a good book for kids.

Undead Girl Gang
by Lily Anderson

The fat Latinx witch tale I never knew I wanted. I can’t say enough good things about it. It’s a solid mystery with a genuinely warranted twist. The friendships are solid and form naturally, and the dialogue is well done. There’s a bit of romance for those who like that, and a lot of zombies (well, three, but that’s three more than most YA novels), and a good murder mystery to be solved. Definitely check it out if you’re looking for a fun, fast read.

Bright-Sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking has Undermined America
by Barbara Ehrenreich

I’ve now read two books by Barbara Ehrenreich and I’ve enjoyed both of them immensely. Not one to pull punches, she takes on the “positive psychology” and “positivity” world with wit and a good dose of skepticism. She talks about the history of positivity as an opposite of Calvinism, its rise through the middle and upper-classes as a way to win over illnesses, and its inevitable destruction of the economy (the housing bubble and crash of the mid-’00s). She tackles the megachurches and The Secret, the faulty science behind “positive psychology”, and the almost cult-like approach to positivity among breast cancer patients.

There’s a dark side to positivity, with its brand of “cutting out the negative” in your life and its shaky claims to give you all you want, which leads to victim blaming once things don’t go as planned. This is a brilliant book I think everyone should read. I know it’s going on my shelf.

I Really Didn’t Think This Through
by Beth Evans

In the style of Hyperbole and a Half, Beth Evans takes us through the process of adulthood, with all its fears, trials, and strengths. From not knowing exactly how to be an adult to working through mental illness, Evans intersperses her writing with comics to illustrate her points. It’s a good little book. I found it similar to a lot of that kind (particularly Everyone’s an Aliebn when You’re an Aliebn Too), but it’s unique to Evans’ experiences. Worth a read, especially if you are someone who deals with anxiety.

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Reviews: 5/21-5/27

Blanky
by Kealan Patrick Burke

A short (73 page) story about ghosts or murderers, you get to decide. It’s a good little story with a decent, if somewhat predictable twist, that does leave an open ending as to what is real and what’s not. It was worth the money.

Sour Candy
by Kealan Patrick Burke

Another 70-odd page short story, this time about a man whose life is suddenly and abruptly changed by the appearance of a young boy. There’s more supernatural horror in this one, so if you’re down for mysterious cults of supernatural beings, this is the one for you.

Crooked: Outwitting the Back Pain Industry and Getting on the Road to Recovery
by Cathryn Jakobson Ramin

A long book, but one full of information, this book tells the story of how back pain became the hottest health care issue through startling amounts of fraud, money changing, and ignorance that led to all kinds of spinal surgeries and injections. The first half of the book tells the history and corruption of the back pain industry, while the second half focuses on what can actually be done for those in pain. She has great resources for those looking to manage their back pain. I highly recommend this one.

Tin Man
by Sarah Winman

Ugh, this one made me cry, and I’m so not a crier. It’s about Michael and Ellis, two best friends and one-time lovers, and Annie, Ellis’s wife, and their relationship. It starts with Ellis alone, both of them gone, dead, as we come to find out. Then it takes us back to Michael’s diary and we learn about his life. Finally, it cuts back to Ellis to finish out the story. It’s beautiful and tragic and bittersweet all at once. It’s also short, so if you’re looking for a nice, if heartbreaking, quick read, this is the one for you.

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Reviews: 5/14-5/20

Kwaidan
by Lafcadio Hearn

This was an interesting set of Japanese ghost stories collected back in the early 1900s by Lafcadio Hearn, a British man who moved to Japan and devoted himself to all things Japanese (the original otaku!). There were some really good ones in here, and I recommend checking it out. It’s not too Orientalist, which is a good thing, but he does explain some things that wouldn’t be known to his audience. I’m looking forward to finding more (possibly more authentic?) stories in the future.

Ghost Boys
by Jewell Parker Rhodes

This made me cry. It starts with a young Black boy getting killed by the police. You follow him as a ghost as he watches his family grieve, and goes through to meet the daughter of the cop who shot him (she’s the only one alive who can see him), and meets Emmett Till, who guides him through this new world he inhabits. It’s heart-wrenching and brutal, but it’s such an important read. I definitely recommend this one.

Natural Causes
by Barbara Ehrenreich

I really enjoyed this book. It’s a look at medical practices and how we’re sometimes killing ourselves to live longer. She talks about all the unnecessary tests doctors put patients through, the lack of understanding we have of ourselves even down to the cellular level, and the way wellness has become some kind of societal marker, all of which stems from a fear of death. It was really fascinating to read, and I definitely recommend it to anyone questioning the rationale of the new wellness trends.

White Rabbit
by Caleb Roehrig

I’ve seen two one-star reviews of this that both center on a throwaway set of lines from a pining teenage boy, that addressed absolutely nothing else about the book. The book itself is about murder, and boy is there going to be a lot of it. Rufus (our lead) gets a call from his half-sister telling him he’s the only one who can help her. When he and his ex arrive at the cabin she called from, they find her bloodsoaked and holding the knife that killed her boyfriend (and, of course, her boyfriend’s body at her feet). What follows is an all-night chase across town to find out who really is guilty, and to do so quickly, before more people are killed.

It was a solid mystery with enough clues that you could follow along easily. I recommend it for a good queer mystery that has a great balance of both romance and mystery.

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Reviews: 5/7-5/13

Word by Word
by Kory Stamper

This was a very enlightening look into how dictionaries are made (particularly Merriam-Webster). It introduces you to lexicography, to the editing process of dictionaries, to the vetting process of words, and to the mind-boggling task of defining such words as “take” and “run”. I found it super interesting, if a little heavy at times. It’s especially good for anyone interested in words and how they work, especially how they’re defined. I recommend it to any word nerd.

The Gunners
by Rebecca Kauffman

This was an interesting novel about a group of friends whose friendship ended when one member of their group suddenly broke away from them. They come together at her funeral and one by one, secrets come out, secrets that might have had to do with her leaving. It’s a very human book full of foibles and changes. I actually really enjoyed it, which was surprising to me, since I’m mostly into books with a plot. This didn’t really have one, just a selection of life moments one after another.

We Should All Be Feminists
by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

The print version of her TED talk, it was very inspiring and very interesting. I can definitely see it being a staple on any feminist shelf. While she focuses strictly on cis relationships, don’t hold that against her. It’s a very good introduction to feminism.

The Princess Saves Herself in This One
by Amanda Lovelace

This was an interesting poetry collection. It deals with a lot of heavy issues, like child abuse, intimate partner abuse, death, and eating disorders, but at the end there’s a light of happiness that shines through to make it tolerable.

The Witch Doesn’t Burn in This One
by Amanda Lovelace

This is the second in her poetry series. There’s a thread of hope that runs through this whole collection that was missing in the first one, a fierceness and a fire that keeps you going through the heartbreak inside. This is anger at the society we live in, and very righteous anger. I enjoyed this one a lot, and I look forward to her next collection.

Passing Strange
by Ellen Klages

A historical queer novel that ends happy? I almost couldn’t believe it. While there is plenty of period-typical racism, it’s always called out and shown as being wrong, not just a *shrug* part of life thing. The queerphobia in here is treated the same way, shown to be wrong. The little bits of magic in here are weaved in very well. The characters are very well rounded and lovely to read about. I enjoyed this one very much.

Dictionary Stories
by Jez Burrows

This was interesting collection of short stories. Some were a little random with the connecting sentences, and yet some were very poignant. There was a good selection of comedy in there as well. It’s a long way through the alphabet, but worth it for some of the stories.

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Reviews: 5/1-5/6

Countdown City
by Ben Winters

This is the second of the Last Policeman trilogy. Doomsday is coming closer and Henry is asked to find the husband of his past babysitter. No longer officially a policeman, he does his best to track him down, with the help of his sister Nico. Nico tries to convince him of her secret plan to save the planet through a wild conspiracy. This becomes more relevant in the third book. This series was really fun. I like a detective who works because he believes in justice for everyone, even the dead in a pre-apocalyptic situation.

World of Trouble
by Ben Winters

Henry leaves safety and goes in search of his sister. I won’t lie, this was the weakest of the books, I felt, in part because it’s in the last days leading up to the meteor strike, but mostly because by the time he reaches her, his sister is already dead. There’s no real closure on that. I’d say spoiler alert, but it’s pretty obvious from the get go. Still, I recommend the whole series because once you read one, you’ll want to finish them all. I finished this one in a single day after finishing number two, so it’s a quick read.

Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions
by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

I really enjoyed this. It’s a short essay (in relation to others), but it’s a good primer on feminism. I found it very refreshing and challenging, as it requires you to unlearn some of your own internal biases. It’s a good reference to have on hand when you need a refresher, or want to look up an answer to a tricky situation. I particularly liked the way she called out Feminism Lite, the so-called feminism that still puts women second to men. I definitely recommend this book. It’s short, a quick read, but a very important one.

My Brother’s Husband
by Gengoroh Tagame

This was super cute. It was written to show changing thoughts about gay people and to challenge homophobia. Every character is written so well (and Kana, the little girl, is adorable). I really recommend this one for the art (Mike is such a bear) and the story.

Bring Me Back
by B. A. Paris

Oh, how I wanted to like this one. I really, really wanted to like it. After his girlfriend disappears twelve years before, Finn begins receiving messages that she might not be dead. But what is she back for? Oh, and he’s getting married to her sister. At first, I was just a little bored, which I often find when I’m stuck reading a male perspective, especially one so caught up in himself. Then, oh god, then the ending happened.

I’m going down to spoiler town now, so follow me below the cut only if you don’t mind spoilers. Don’t tell me I didn’t warn you.

Continue reading

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Reviews: 4/23-4/30

Miniature Mysteries: 100 Malicious Little Mysteries
by Various Writers, edited by Isaac Asimov

This amazing collection was the 1981 (I think) version (there’s a 1990s version that might be updated) and the stories were deliciously ’70s. There are, as it says on the tin, 100 short stories in this anthology, making for a very big book! Stories range from two to five pages each, a good size for short mysteries. There were some mediocre ones, of course, but there were some spectacular stories in there, most of them with a darkly comic twist. I highly recommend seeing if your library has a copy. They’re great stories to read when you’re short on time or want something bite-sized before bed.

The Story of Be
by David Crystal

Ugh, this man. If I could take a class under him, I’d do it in a heartbeat. He’s renewed my interest in linguistics once again. This is a history of the word “Be” in all its forms (is, am, are, were, was, etc.). It’s a fascinating read, especially when he goes back to Old English to show you where all these different forms come from, and then shows regional dialectical forms in Modern English. He goes over a number of forms of “be” (and also explains the “he is risen” phrasing and why that’s so particular). Honestly, I loved it. If you’re a word nerd, you’ll love it too.

Dr. Coo and the Pigeon Protest
by Sarah Hampson

This was a cute children’s book about taking things for granted and promoting peace and happiness between people. The pigeons believe it’s been too long that they’ve been harassed and forgotten and shooed away, and they’re ready to protest. This results in a day without pigeons, which turns out to be a very sad day indeed. There’s some solid history in here about the use of pigeons as messengers in wartime, and in the end they’re appreciated as they are. It’s really cute, the art is precious, and it’s a good fit for kids, especially once in cities where pigeons are everywhere.

Macbeth
by Jo Nesbo

I won’t lie to you, I got to where Banquo’s ghost showed up and called it quits. It’s a bit too on-the-nose a Macbeth retelling for me. It’s also, for my tastes, rather dry in places. The first two chapters are the hardest to get through, with paragraphs focused on raindrops and seagulls, respectively. I wish I was kidding.

Maybe one day I’ll finish it. If someone got it for me as a gift, I definitely would. But my library copy is due tomorrow, so it’s going back unfinished.

The Best Kind of People
by Zoe Whittall

This was an interesting one. Ostensibly, it’s about an accusation of rape against a male teacher, but it’s actually about what his family goes through during the accusation, imprisonment, and subsequent trial. It never answers the question of what actually happened, but it doesn’t need to. The story focuses on the family falling apart and how they survive what’s going on. It’s interesting enough to warrant a read, though I can tell you it might be triggering for some for talks about child abuse/molestation/rape.

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Reviews: 4/16-22 (Belated)

The Atrocities
by Jeremy Shipp

This was a short little novella about a woman who comes to tutor what turns out to be a dead girl. But is that all of what’s going on? I really enjoyed this. You slip in and out of dreams in the narrative without warning, meaning you need to be paying pretty close attention to what’s going on. The twist was well done and the descriptions of the twisted art throughout the story were very good. I definitely recommend this if you like short horror.

Long Way Down
by Jason Reynolds

What can I say about this except that I was blown away and I definitely cried. A boy’s brother has been shot and he’s determined to go and shoot the guy he thinks did it. As he takes the elevator down from his apartment, dead people close to him get on at each floor, talking to him about what he’s going to do and how they died (all by gun violence). It ends with his brother getting on and let me just say, if you’re not crying by then there’s something wrong because it is just that powerful.

I definitely recommend this to everyone. It’s all in verse, which makes the story even more stunning.

The Last Policeman
by Ben Winters

There’s a meteor headed for Earth and we have six months to live. That’s the premise of the Last Policeman series. He’s a cop who finds a death by hanging (the most popular suicide type in their city) that he just feels is wrong somehow. He investigates it as a murder and stirs up all kinds of trouble. It’s really well done with how the world might start functioning with a literal deadline and the kinds of things people might start to do. Hospitals still work, but are understaffed due to people going out to “find themselves” and do what they’ve always wanted to do before it hits.

It’s a solid murder mystery and I really recommend it. It’s fast, readable, and with good clues to help you figure out what’s going on.

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Reviews: 4/9-4/15

I’ve had a busy week this past one, so I didn’t get as much read as I wished. That said, I did finish two books, so that’s better than none.

The Perfect Nanny
by Leila Slimani

What to say about this book? For starters, you know how it ends when it begins, which is an interesting take. The story is less about the crime that happened and more about how it got to that point. While it’s not exactly a hard read, I found I had difficulty getting through it. I came into it expecting more of a focus on the crime as opposed to the real focus, which is on motherhood, societal expectations, and class. That’s not so say it’s a bad read! I just was going in expecting something else. It’s a short read, and if you’re looking for something you can read in an afternoon, you can’t go wrong with it.

The Poet X
by Elizabeth Acevedo

This is the first novel I’ve read that’s entirely in verse, which was a very cool experience for me. Mixed in with the narrative poems are poems about Xiomara’s family, her first feelings for a guy, and her thoughts on religion. The one about her father hit me hard, because yikes if I don’t feel that in a big way. I definitely recommend it. It’s a fast read if you want another one to crank out in an afternoon, and you will cry, but you’ll end up hopeful. At least, that’s how it went for me.

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Reviews: 4/1 – 4/8

A Perilous Path
by Sherrilyn Ifill, Loretta Lynch, Bryan Stevenson, Anthony C. Thompson

This is a transcription of what was a very interesting conversation on race, equality, and the law. It talked about where the inequalities come from, how they’re in our laws (especially after the gutting of the Voting Rights Act), and how we can use the law to fight against them. It’s a really fascinating (and quick) read that I definitely recommend to people looking to be more active in civil rights.

The Silent Companions
by Laura Purcell

A spooky ghost book, to be sure, but I found it dragged a bit to much for me to get really into it. There are three timelines going on at once: the present, the past, and the far past. Jumping between them became taxing when I just wanted to follow one storyline over another. Still, it’s atmospheric and Gothic, and you can never go wrong with sinister figurines.

The Astonishing Color of After
by Emily X. R. Pan

I really didn’t expect to enjoy this book as much as I did, but it’s a very touching story on family, love, and loss. This is surprisingly bigger than you think it is, but it keeps you reading so it doesn’t feel like a drag. Our lead is very identifiable and there’s an element of magic running through the story that keeps things interesting. I definitely recommend reading it, but I can’t guarantee you won’t cry. I did, and I’m not an easy crier.

Groucho Marx, Master Detective
by Ron Goulart

I just found out about this series the day before I requested it from the library. I don’t even remember how I found it now, but I’m so glad I did. We go back to the 1930s when studios ran Hollywood and the Marx Brothers had just come off of some of their most popular movies. Groucho is about to do a radio show in which he plays a bumbling detective, only to have a murder fall into his lap like a cheap date. The writing style fits perfectly with the patter of the Marx Brothers, and our second lead, the writer of said radio show, can keep up with Groucho like the best of them.

The murder mystery is solid (with two bodies by the time we’re through) and the book moves fast, really keeping your attention with each passing chapter. There’s six books in the series and if anyone can find me copies of them I will be forever grateful to you (my library has exactly 0 copies of book number two ;__; ).

People Like Us
by Dana Mele

Oh boy, it’s another scholarship kid at a boarding house murder mystery. I seem to be tripping over these in my quest to read every mystery ever. This was all right, though. The mystery is delectable and twisty enough to keep your attention and the chapters don’t drag on, so the pace is quick (though not as quick as GM,MD above). While I am getting tired of this setting (oh, the scholarship girl makes friends with the bitchy clique, now she’s One Of Them but not really because scholarship) and the general plot (revenge against Them), it didn’t stop the book from being readable. I recommend it if you like these kinds of books, or are looking for a fast thriller.

Aru Shah and the End of Time
by Roshani Chokshi

Ugh, this was so good. Aru is too adorable for words. When Aru accidentally awakens the being known as The Sleeper, which sets off the process for the end of the world, she and a new friend must journey to the realm of the Gods to find the weapons to defeat the Sleeper. Layered with Hindu legends (and sporting a very full and very helpful glossary), Aru Shah is a story about becoming who you were meant to be, even if you don’t feel special. Aru’s confidence in herself is inspiring, and even when she has doubt, she’s got a friend to bring her right back up. The friendship between Aru and Mini is perfect; they complement each other so well, with Aru’s confidence and imagination, and Mini’s smarts and preparedness.

I really can’t recommend this enough if you’re in the market for a diverse middle grade read. Sometimes it was painful, because we all remember being twelve and the middle school torment that entailed, but the book is full of heart. I can’t wait for the next book in the series, although it won’t be out until ;___; next year.

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Reviews: 3/19-3/31

Let Me Lie
by Clare Mackintosh

I won’t lie, I had a hard time getting through this. Once the major twist was revealed, it was pretty easy to solve the overall mystery, so I ended up skimming the second half of the book. It’s a slow build, which isn’t bad, but just wasn’t what I was looking for at the time.

I Am, I Am, I Am
by Maggie O’Farrell

This was a really interesting collection of near death experiences as a memoir. Her experiences showed things I’ve encountered in my own life: doctors who don’t believe in women’s illnesses, the constant pain and changes that come from having a chronic illness. Her stories were heartbreaking and inspiring, because no matter what, she’s still here and so are we.

Bone
by Yrsa Daley-Ward

I finally read this collection after having it for months because I am lazy af lost it for a while and finally found it after my cat knocked over the book stack it was in. The poems are very powerful and I definitely recommend it.

Truly, Devious
by Maureen Johnson

I got this back in January and never finished it, so in a fit of pique late one night I dragged it back out and finished it. I enjoyed the flashback crime the most, I won’t lie. I’m not a huge fan of high school activities anyway (even when I was in high school, I didn’t give a damn about high school) so the story kind of dragged for me when it wasn’t about the original crime. But as soon as things started getting hairy for the modern story, I was back into it.

I recommend it, even though it ends on a cliffhanger with ABSOLUTELY FUCKING NOTHING resolved. Here’s hoping the next book comes out soon and solves at least one of the crimes.

Was the Cat in the Hat Black?
by Philip Nel

This was an interesting read. On one hand, he does a good job of showing how societal racism has affected children’s books and their creation. On the other, one whole chapter seemed to be “how many times can I use the n-word and still be believed that it makes me uncomfortable, but it’s totally necessary for the book”. I wasn’t buying that, especially not from a white guy. It’s also so damn academic he says the same things about five times in each chapter, a thing I really can’t stand about academic writing.

Do I recommend this? I’m not sure. On one hand, it is very informative, but on the other, it’s everything above.

The Snowy Day
by Ezra Jack Keats

A frankly adorable children’s book about a young boy experiencing a snow day. The art is bright and colorful and the character of Peter is simply adorable (I know, I used adorable twice, but he pokes the snow on the branches with a stick and it falls on his head and if that’s not adorable, I don’t know what is). What made this book remarkable was that it was the first children’s book to feature a black child as the lead without making him a stereotype. Peter is simply the everychild experiencing his snowy day. The story still holds up and is sure to delight children today.

Shiver
by Junji Ito

This was a collection of horror shorts by one of the masters of the horror manga, Junji Ito. The art is terrifying and so are the stories. I think my favorite was one about a song that is only sung by the recently dead. It was also the least viscerally terrifying, so that may have something to do with it. One of the most memorable is about a man who lives with the minds of his ancestors attached to him, and another about a monster of a model and her bloody endings.

Trust No Aunty
by Maria Qamar

This was hilarious and insightful. I love learning about other cultures and this one was a great into to the world of the aunties, related or otherwise. (As someone who once had a Filipino aunty, I very much feel the “You’re so skinny, you need more food, MARRY MY SON, YES” of the various aunties.) She also has some great recipes in here you can make on the cheap, so definitely check those out. Her art pops and is full of color and very expressive. It’s no wonder she has such a following.

A Poem for Peter
by Andrea Davis Pinkney

This was written in response to The Snowy Day as a poem to little Peter. The poem tells about the creator, Ezra Jack Keats, and his life growing up a poor immigrant boy in the 20s-30s New York. The illustrations match his style very well, and show him growing as an artist through his life up until he created The Snowy Day.

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Reviews: 3/12-3-18

Goldie Vance Vol. 2
by Hope Larson

The second volume of Goldie Vance was just as cute as the first, but with more character growth. When Goldie inadvertently hurts her best friend’s feelings, she has to not only solve a mystery, but also has to grow up a little to make amends with her friend. It’s a solid mystery with an actual villainous antagonist and good supporting characters. I really hope to see some more Goldie and gang. There’s still a lot more to be done with them.

A Song for Quiet
by Cassandra Khaw

Although it follows Hammers on Bone, this John Persons novel spends its time following Deacon James, a bluesman, as he tries to flee from Persons. Deacon has something in his head, something that brings out a terrible kind of music. There are demons after him trying to get what’s in his head, as well as gods ready to destroy the world. The story is tragic, but heartwarming, with a sacrifice to save not just the world, but a girl on her own. I really enjoyed this and definitely recommend it to readers of cosmic horror.

S.T.A.G.S
by M. A. Bennett

Ancient British boarding school + secret society + huntin’ shootin’ fishin’ = murder.

That’s basically the plot. Three nobodies from school are invited to a weekend of huntin’ shootin’ fishin’ with the clique called the Medievals, a group of extremely wealthy students from old families. Things start to go wrong when accidents begin happening to the trio and it’s up to them to figure out what’s going on and how to stop it.

It’s a quick read, but a good one. It’s not so much edge-of-your-seat thrills as it is solid pacing, but it’s enough to hold interest and keep one reading till the end.

The Hunger
by Alma Katsu

I can’t recommend this one enough. I apparently never shared my TRUE UNBRIDLED JOY from reading Ararat by Christopher Golden, but that’s basically what The Hunger is, but with bonus Donner Party. There’s something stalking the Donner party, a string of bad luck that quickly turns deadly as they struggle on towards California. Tensions are high, even at the beginning, and they only get worse as the journey continues. There’s a girl who hears the voices of the dead, a woman who may or may not be a witch, an actual queer character who doesn’t die, and, of course, something very very hungry watching them.

I’m usually hesitant about adding supernatural elements to historical settings (one day I’ll write my rant about supernatural in the world wars and how that worldbuilding never works), but it really works here because it feels built in to the world around it. There are myths pertaining to these demons along with warnings and stories from those who’ve seen them. I highly recommend reading it by section with breaks in between so it can really settle into your head. But remember, what’s out there is hungry and it’s waiting for food.

The Veldt
by Ray Bradbury

This is a short story about a family who have every possible comfort in their technologically advanced home, only to realize that they’ve made little monsters out of their children. It’s a warning about becoming too reliant on technology as well as a warning about parenting (as in, you really ought to do it instead of letting something else do it for you). It’s worth a read, especially if you’re wondering where to get into Bradbury and don’t want to start in on a novel. He wrote many short stories and I recommend you start there.

Doubt Vol. 1
by Yoshiki Tonogai

This is a horror manga about a phone game that becomes real when six teens are kidnapped and locked into an abandoned building. Someone begins killing them off one by one, just like in the game, and it’s up to them to find out who’s behind it and how to survive. It’s a really good start with enough tension to keep you reading and wanting for the next volume.

Everyone’s an Aliebn When You’re an Aliebn Too
by Jomny Sun

This was cute af. A little alien comes down to learn about being human, but all he meets are forest animals and trees and flowers and Nothing. Little by little, they teach him about life on Earth each in their own way. His alien colleagues find this all baffling and routinely leave him back on Earth to study more. It’s a fast and inspiring read, and there’s something for everybody in it. I definitely recommend it.

This is Just My Face Try Not To Stare
by Gabourey Sidibe

I’ve never laughed so hard when reading a memoir, but I certainly did with this one. Her humor shines through even in the difficult parts. Her life is fascinating and full, and, while she’s never one to call herself normal, it’s refreshing just how normal she is; she’s just as weird and quirky as the rest of us. Heck, she used to write NSYNC fanfic! (Reminds me of my high school days.)

I definitely recommend it if you like celebrity memoirs or just want a good laugh with someone who feels like a friend.

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Reviews: 3/5-3/11

Clue:  The Graphic Novel
by Paul Allor

I had heard about this comic before it came out when they talked about how the first issue would have three different endings.  I figured I would wait until the trade came out to read it and I’m glad I did.  Getting all three of the first endings gave a better setting overall.  I really enjoyed what they did with the characters, reinventing them and adding new ones made the comic really work.  It’s a fully self-contained story, which is good to see.  I really enjoyed it and solving the mystery along with the comic.

The Girl From the Well
by Rin Chupeco

This was a very interesting take on the “girl in the well” story of Okiku, where she’s a vengeful spirit taking out child murderers.  She starts protecting a teenager who has a spirit bound into him.  We follow Okiku and the boy’s cousin as they try to solve the mysteries of his binding.  It’s a good horror story, slow-paced, but compulsively readable.  Some of the descriptions of Okiku’s kills are a bit gruesome, but not anything worse than any typical horror story.  I recommend it especially for those looking to get a feel of Chupeco’s writing, particularly if you’re interested in The Bone Witch or the upcoming The Heart Forger.

Down the River Unto the Sea
by Walter Mosley

I really enjoyed this one.  The relationship between our main character and his teenage daughter was really good, a solid relationship with respect on both their sides.  The mysteries are solid and keep you guessing, and every character has their own life and feels like a real person.  I could picture every scene and characters within them, which I always take to be a good sign.  There was a little too much “oh poor cops” for my taste (like cops need any sympathy), but overall it was a solid book and I’d recommend it for the mystery.

I’ll Be Gone in the Dark
by Michelle McNamara

This was a tough read.  A readable one, but tough because of the subject matter.  The focus is on finding the Golden State Killer, another name for the East Area Rapist who ran wild during the late seventies and on.  There’s a ton of information in here, both on his crimes and on the steps taken by police trying to stop him.  I recommend reading this one in spurts, with something lighthearted in between just to keep from burning out.  The memoir parts of the story are really poignant and especially so is the afterward by her husband.  I recommend this for true crime fans.

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Reviews: 3/1-3/4

Goldie Vance Vol. 1
Hope Larson

This comic is so cute! Goldie is adorably chipper and determined, and her detective skills are sharp as a knife. In this first volume, we meet our cast of characters, each one clearly fleshed out. There’s secret espionage, car races, flirting (such cute flirting), and mystery solving. The art is just adorable and bright as anything. The writing is solid and made me want more instantly.

I definitely recommend this if you like mysteries, ’50s era style, strong and smart WOC, or just a good comic series overall.

Hammers on Bone
by Cassandra Khaw

It all starts when a boy comes to private detective Persons asking him to kill his stepfather. And so begins a mystery of monstrous (literally) proportions. John Persons isn’t human, not really, but he’s holding onto this body for a while and he’s not too keen on losing it anytime soon.

The book is written in classic noir first person, and a somewhat untrustworthy first person at that. There’s more than one monster roaming around London, and the descriptions of it are borderline disgusting, but appropriate. There’s a darkness surrounding everything in this book, which works well for the tone, a grimy sort of filth that layers over the setting and the words. It’s very well written and although there are some phrases I wish weren’t used, they’re in keeping with the overall voice of the character. I definitely recommend this for those who like their horror to be a little different.

The Prince and the Dressmaker
by Jen Wang

This was just adorable, and sad, and then happy again (which is typical for any queer story, I’ve noticed). The prince has a secret he hides from the world and that is that sometimes, he likes to wear dresses. They make him feel powerful and self-assured. He hires a girl to be his private seamstress and she makes him a very stunning collection of dresses. Their relationship is so cute, first being friends building to an eventual kiss.

The story is equally about the prince as it is the seamstress, whose work gets her recognized by a budding department store fashion manager and the most famous designer in the city. When it all comes to a head, it does so dramatically, making everything seem lost in that moment. But the story ends happy, which is the greatest way a story like this can end.

I definitely recommend it for the story, but the art is also amazing. The dress designs are stunning, and the little bonus in the end of the book that shows the behind-the-scenes work is delightful. If you’re looking for a happy queer story, this is the one.

Texts from Jane Eyre
by Mallory Ortberg

Oh my god, I’ve never laughed this hard at a book. Mallory takes us from Medea through Fight Club in text messages between the main characters of each story. One of my favorites (because I’m lowkey obsessed with this play right now) was the continuing saga of Hamlet, the dramatic “STAY OUT OF MY ROOM, MOM” of Shakespeare’s canon.

Mallory not only brings us fictional characters, but also creates texts for some famous literary figures, including Thoreau, Shelley, William Carlos Williams, and Lord Byron. The great thing about this book is that, even if you don’t really know the story you’re reading, you can still appreciate the texts as they are. But for the ones you do know, they’re a laugh riot.

I definitely recommend this book for anyone looking for a literary laugh, and especially to read now before her upcoming book, The Merry Spinster, comes out on the 13th.

Mary’s Monster: Love, Madness, and How Mary Shelley Created Frankenstein
by Lita Judge

This is an interesting book, as it’s mostly told in a kind of free verse set against some very stirring paintings. It tells the story of Mary Shelley, starting from her at fourteen and going until Frankenstein’s creation and commercial success. It shows Mary as a girl adrift from the world, longing for a connection with her mother, which eventually leads to her love for Percy Shelley. It doesn’t shy away from his awfulness in the least, for which I was truly glad (Percy Shelley: kind of a dick). The art on each page is very striking, a great counterpoint to the words on the pages. When things are going well, the art is sharp and luscious. When things get tragic, the art blurs and darkens with the mood.

The book is about three hundred pages, but it’s a very fast read. I’d definitely recommend it for those who like art and biographies. This may not be the most detailed, but it’s well researched and is certainly an experience worth having.

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Reviews: 2/26-2/28

The French Girl
by Lexie Elliott

You go to France for one week and end up being haunted by a dead girl ten years later. What a boner, man.

That’s basically the plot of the book right there, although there’s more investigating and A LOT more relationship building and destroying in between. Overall it was a solid mystery and while it may have had a realistic happy ending, it was not a closure filled one, which is a little :/ if you know what I mean. Still, it was a decent mystery with a decent ending and that’s as good as I’m gonna get.

How Did It Begin?
by R. Brasch

I read the original 1965 copy of this book, which was fascinating as it had things like “we can guess the moon is a brown-darkish color” like omg we hadn’t even been on the moon yet!!! Sorry, these things make my little history nerd heart happy.

It’s a book about different customs, sayings, and phrases and their possible origins. There are often several the book will tell you and let you decide which one you like the story for. It was a very interesting book and I’d love to get my hands on a newer copy to see what’s been updated and added.

Ten Dead Comedians
by Fred Van Lente

Don’t even read this review, just drop what you’re doing and read this. Go to your library, go to Amazon, just get this damn book. It’s hands down the funniest murder mystery I’ve ever read.

The plot is literally And Then There Were None, but with more graphic deaths and more comedians. It ends as all good comedies do, with a laugh. It’s got comedians of all kinds: stand-ups, TV hosts, prop comics, insult comics, a Larry the Cable Guy expy, you name it. It’s actually really fun to try and figure out who the characters are a mix of.

The mystery is solid and well written. It honestly keeps you guessing the entire time until the reveal. And what a reveal it is. Seriously, though, I cannot recommend this book enough and if — WHEN — any of you read it, please come talk to me so I can gush with you.

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