Monday, January 13, 2014

Book List 2013: Roundup (Part 2)

* = Reread
[GN] = Graphic Novel or Comic Anthology
[CB] = Children's Book
[AC] = Art collection

Watch out! A couple of books triggered my dirty sailor mouth and I couldn't help myself from unleashing a number of swears. So consider your virgin eyes warned.


The Well of Lost Plots

by. Jasper Fforde

The 3rd book in the Thursday Next series.

As you might recall from the previous section, I was shanghaied into reading these.

Like I said before, they're all right. But their plots don't interest me at all. Unless someone else finds a way to thrust more of these books into my hands this will probably be the last Thursday Next book I ever read.



by. Joe Hill

Certain individuals are endowed with supernatural abilities that they can unlock by channeling a bit of themselves through a object familiar. Victoria McQueen, for instance, has the ability to find lost things. But when she accidentally makes herself known to a cruel child murdererwith an ability of his own—her life and the lives of those closest to her are endangered.

This book was a lot more Stephen Kingy than I'm used to from Joe Hill, so I didn't like it as much as his other novels. However, I did thoroughly enjoy it for what it was. I don't know about Scary, but it was definitely Exciting. It caught me and never let me go. I had a couple late night sessions where I really wanted to go to bed, but I just couldn't put it down.

The characters, the pacing, the ideas; all of them brilliant.


Dawn of the Dead

by. George Romero & Susanna Sparrow

A novelization of the classic film.

I really don't understand why this exists. It's nowhere near as enjoyable as the movie.

Just go watch the movie.

[GN]   42.   [GN]

Crying in Front of Your Dog
and Other Stories

by. Phil McAndrew

A collection of short comics from Phil McAndrew.

A strange little collection. It seems quite large, but Phil McAndrew's style of comics uses a kind of flipbook style of paneling, where each page acts as a single panel. The first section of the book features a few longer stories and they make up for the vast majority of its mass. While half of these were pretty fun, the other half seemed kind of like a huge waste of space. The jokes he was telling could have been told much, MUCH more concisely.

Case in point: The Secret Thoughts of Harold Lawrence Windcrampe. It uses 45 pages to make the point that confident Bros have better luck with women than thoughtful dorks, because the bros will actually talk to women instead of hanging back and just thinking forever about doing so. And there wasn't even anything visually interesting happening. A fifth of the book for that. Ridiculous.

However, whatever qualms I have with the first section, they are no match for how much I enjoyed the second section. The second half of the book has his shorter pieces and they are hilarious. They made me go from I'm not so sure about this book to Hahaha! This book is great! in two stories and there were 16 more after that!

So yeah. There are a couple weak parts, but there are also some incredible strong parts as well. And there's much more great than weak here, which is the best you can hope for with collections, don't you think?

[GN] *  43.  * [GN]

vol. 1, 2, 7

by. Mohiro Kitoh

A group of children stumble across a strange man who invites them to play a game. What kind of game? One in which they have to pilot a gigantic robot and defeat a series of other robots. However, the children soon learn that the game is all too real and the fate of the world is now in their hands.

I actually read this series for the first time last year and I was so fascinated by it that I was going to make a special post all about itwhich is why you won't see it listedbut I shamefully never got around to it. Thus I'll talk about it here, because this series is pretty much amazing and you should know about it. Especially since I've started trying to amass the whole series for my collection.

This series is so good, but in such a dark way. I'm sure you've heard of giant robot fighter stories before, but this one is different. It's bleak and insightful, depressing and heartfelt. The characters are flawed and human. It uses this truly bizarre premise as a way of dealing with some really deep ideas. What would you do if you knew you were going to die? How hard would you fight to save the lives of those you care about? What lengths would you go to and would the cost be worth it? How would true power change you?

I really don't want to give anything away, but trust me on this. If you like science fiction and dark stories, then you need to read this series. It has a higher death toll than I've ever seen in a story before, and it's all so powerful. It's the kind of story that really gets under your skin. The premise is so silly you get blindsided by how deep the story actually is and it all just serves to make everything all the more interesting.

I'd really love to go into the series in-depth, but I don't want to ruin any of the surprises for you. Just trust me. Read the first two volumes. If you find yourself hopelessly intrigued? Well, then you're welcome!


Let's Explore Diabetes With Owls

by. David Sedaris

A collection of humorous essays.

Probably my second favorite Sedaris collection after Me Talk Pretty One Day? Actually, it's been a while before I've reread them all, so probably shouldn't say that, but it might be? And considering how much I love David Sedaris that's saying something.


The Summer is Ended and We Are Not Yet Saved

by. Joey Comeau

One summer a young boy goes to Bible Camp so that his mom can take a high profile job out of town for a few weeks. But something isn't right about this camp. For one thing there's a lot more murders than you'd expect.

This is actually a retelling of Comeau's earlier story Biblecamp Bloodbath. He went back retooled it and made it into a longer story. I was hoping to go back and reread it so I could compare them, but it's not online anymore and I can't find a copy to buy. Alas!

If anyone ever needs a gift for me consider trying to track me down a copy of Joey Comeau's original Biblecamp Bloodbath.

The sad thing is I love both versions for different reasons. I love that this one went deeper into the story and the characters. I also feel like it did a better job of establishing itself as a proper story, as something more than just a set-up to horror. However, the original version has a truly wonderful ending. Seriously. It creates one of the best ending notes I've ever seen. While this ending note is still in The Summer is Ended, they play it much earlier and it loses so much of its power because of that.

So I'm conflicted. But a lot of you probably have no idea what I'm talking about and wish I'd just talk about the book on its own. Okay, okay.

If you like horror films then I'm sure you'll like this one. Comeau is a connoisseur of horror films and you can really tell. He brings his usual A Softer World-yin yang outlook to the table here, wherein everything is shades of grey. Where there's darkness in the light and light in the darkness. Where there's something fun about violence and mayhem. And there's something heartbreaking that lurks in love.

[CB]   46.   [CB]

The Barefoot Book of Animal Tales From Around the World

 by. Naomi Adler
illustrated by. Amanda Hall

A collection of animal fables from around the world. I mean, you did read the title right?

What can I say? I'm a sucker for fables and I found this at the public library's used book store for 50c! And it turned out to be really fun! I think there was only one story I was a little meh about, but the rest were great. Plus I had never heard of most of them before, which makes them even better!

Anyways, the moral here is that this was a great purchase on my part.

[GN]   47.   [GN]


by. Kazu Kibuishi

A collection of lushly colored comic strips about the adventures of a boy and his dog.

I've been a big fan of this comic from way back when it was updating online. So when I happened across a Copper book at my local comic book store, you'd better believe I grabbed it immediately.

I'd say Copper is Kazu Kibuishi's best work. It's imaginative and hopeful and visually striking. I encourage you to check that link out and see what you think.

[GN] *  48.  * [GN]


by. Jeff Smith

A group of brothers get lost in the desert after being run out of their hometown. After stumbling upon a valley they quickly find themselves in the middle of an ancient war: The lord of the locusts vs. the dragons.

BONE is my favorite graphic novel. Period.

It is impossibly good. Jeff Smith's artwork is gorgeous. The story is both huge and epic, while also cute and humorous. The characters are endearing. I just love it so much.

If I could only have one book to read for the rest of my life, this would be my choice.


The Haunting of Hill House

by. Shirley Jackson

A group of people are brought to a supposedly haunted house by a scientist who's seeking solid evidence of a real haunting. However, none of them were prepared for what they would actually find.

 I just want to mention upfront that this isn't a haunted house novel, this is THE haunted house novel. In fact it is often regarded as one of the best horror novels of our day.

Because of Joey Comeau's recommendations of her, I've started really getting into Shirley Jackson's work and I'm so glad I did. She has a writing style that is brilliant, but oh so hard to describe.

For instance, this book isn't really scary so much as it is unsettling. It makes you uncomfortable. The house in the story is described as being built at slightly unusual and inconsistent angles so it would make its occupants uncomfortable without them knowing why. The more I read the more I felt like that's a perfect metaphor for how this story makes its readers feel.

There is just something about it that's creepy. Even when nothing explicit is happening it still gets to you. It reminded my of The House of Leaves in the way that it could impart the mood of a setting/character into you through its writing.

[AC]   50.   [AC]

The Nu Project:
Beauty in Every Body, Vol. 1
 photography by. Matt Blum 

“The Nu Project is a series of honest nudes of women from all over the world. The project began in 2005 and has stayed true to the original vision: no professional models, minimal makeup and no glamour. The focus of the project has been and continues to be the subjects and their personalities, spaces, insecurities and quirks.”

If I had a teenage daughter I would slip this into her bookshelf. I know, I know, putting a book of nude photography in your child's hands? What kind of a person would do that? Perverts, right? But think about it. It's a collection of beautiful photographs of beautiful women. It would show her that Beauty isn't what we see in the media, it's a state of mind. Here are these women who don't look like models, but they don't care. And why should they? Why should anyone? They're happy, comfortable in their bodies, and they're each beautiful in their own personal way. What a great message to get across, don't you think?

The concept of Beauty we receive from the media is a dangerous one that we are all forced to internalize in some way of another. The wonderful thing about this book is that it's like an antidote of sorts. It makes you doubt what everyone is selling, by giving you another point of reference. A truer point of reference.

After getting it earlier in the year I've already pulled it down off my bookshelf more than once. It works great for whenever I feel the need to realign my sense of normal. Like zeroing out a scale.

It's easy to fall into the trap of marketed beauty, because that's often all we see, but that's not how the world really is. That's not what Beauty really is. And thank God for that, because there's so much more beauty in the world than people would have you believe. And it's nice that there's a book like this to remind us of that.


Poor Yorick

by. Ryan North
Illustrations by. Tyson Hesse

A short choose-your-own-adventure story of the life (and often death) of Hamlet's boyhood jester.

This was a little extra book that I got from backing Ryan North's To Be or Not to Be project on Kickstarter. It's a little choose-your-own-adventure book about the character of Yorick from Hamlet. You might recall him [or at least his skull] from the classic image of Hamlet holding up a skullwhich belonged to his old jester— and saying, “Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him well.

It's a short little book, as you can expect considering Yorick's outcome in Hamlet, but it's a lot of fun. Tyson Hesse did the illustrations for it and they just make the whole thing even better.

[GN]   52.   [GN]

Hilda and the Midnight Giant

by. Luke Pearson

Hilda and her mother are being evicted from their home by the little elves that live nearby. Hilda sets out to find out why and to try and save her home.

I went to a local book/comic fair thing this year and overall it was...really dumb. I swear there is this Independent-Selfpublished- Comic aesthetic out there, and the vast majority of the time it all looks the same: shitty. They've got dirty/sloppy linework and an overinflated sense of worth. I was hoping to find some great comics I had never heard of before, but nothing even came close.

But I'm getting off topic, the one bright light of the trip was that there was an independent bookseller who had a booth there and they had a bunch of awesome stuff that suited my fancy. And this was one of them!

And what a great find it was! It is such a cute story and the art matches everything perfectly. I'm not even sure how to describe it. It's like if a Japanese myth was told with American silliness in a European styled comic structure? I dunno. Whatever it is, it's fun and imaginative and just plain well told. I'm a big fan and I highly recommend it.

[CB]   53.   [CB]

Bear Despair

by. Gaetan Doremus

The story of a bear whose teddy bear gets stolen. Now the bear is determined to get it back and will gobble up anyone who gets in its way.

A fun little book, but what really intrigued me about it is that it has no words what-so-ever. The story is told completely in pictures. It really is a joy when people can pull that off, because it creates a story that anyone can enjoy. What a fun kids book.


The Bento Bestiary

by. Ben Newman & Scott James Donaldson

A bestiary of 14 Japanese yōkai.

I've got a serious soft spot for books about monsters and spirits and whatnot, so you'd better believe I was all over this colorful little collection of Japanese monsters. The writing is quite fun and the pictures are a delight. I absolutely love the art style in this thing. A very nice addition to my collection of monster books, if I do say so myself.


To Be or Not To Be

by. William Shakespeare & Ryan North

A choose-your-own-adventure version of Shakespeare's classic tale of Hamlet; featuring illustrations by some of webcomic's finest.

Okay, technically I didn't read ALL of it, because I think that's gonna take a long time. But I did play through multiple storylines as all the characters, so you know what? Just let me have this one, okay?

Anyways, it is just as wonderful as I hoped it would be when I first heard about the Kickstarter for the project. And considering it was written by Ryan North (the man behind Dinosaur Comics and B to the F) it comes as no surprise that the writing is both wonderful and hilarious.

I mean, they had me at Ryan North is making a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure version of Hamlet, but then to add in all the artwork? That just brings this whole book into orbit. Each storyline ending is illustrated and they've got so many amazing artists and it just adds this extra punch of wonderful to each ending. Ugh! So good. I am in love with this book.

I'm currently seeing if I can donate a copy to my college library, because what an amazing thing that would be to stumble across in your college library! *fingers crossed*


The Verse by the Side of the Road:
The Story of the Bruma-Shave Signs and Jingles

by. Frank Rowsome Jr.

A history of Burma-Shave and a collection of every one of their jingles.

Burma-Shave is one of those things I always make references to and no one ever gets what I'm talking about. I guess that's because the first sign appeared in Minneapolis and I heard about here at the Minnesota History Center, but still! It was a national phenomena for decades!

For those of you who don't know, back in the 20s-50s Burma-Shave billboards were everywhere. But these weren't the billboards that we're used to today. These were much smaller signs stuck in the side of the road and they'd have a little jingle broken up over multiple signs. So you'd see the first bit, then you'd drive a little further and see the next one, and on.


Isn't that awesome? They had these things all over the place and people would be reading them out loud in the car. I just love the idea of this being a thing. I mainly picked up the book because it has a collection of all the jingles, but the history of the company is actually pretty interesting. It's a pretty short read and the jingles are kind of hilarious and I would highly recommend you read it and learn about Burma-Shave.



Hyrule Historia

by. Shigeru Miyamoto, Eiji Aonuma, & Akira Himekawa
edited by. Patrick Thorpe

An anniversary book for the Legend of Zelda series. Detailing the history of the series and all the wonderful details as to how the games are made.

A sexy hardbound book all about The Legend of Zelda series? Oh, you'd better believe I was all over that. It's pretty fun. They go over they're process for creating a game, by using Skyward Sword as an example. They've got a timeline showing how all the games are connected. They talk a little about the history of the series. But the piece de resistance is the concept art. They have tons of concept art from every game in the series! Ugh! So cool. For a big Zelda fan like me this thing is so much fun.


A History of the World in 6 Glasses

by. Tom Standage

A book that looks at the history of the world through the lens of its most popular beverages (Beer, Wine, Tea, Spirits, Coffee, Pop) and their respective eras.

It's definitely an interesting book, but it lacked the cohesive vision it needed to make it something more. The history of the beverages was interesting and so was the history of their effects, but there's really no spine to the narrative they're telling, nothing to connect everything together. So it just ends up being “Here are some interesting facts about these beverages” as opposed to a book about the history of the world through its beverages.

Does that make sense?


Love, Dishonor, Marry, Cherish, Perish

by. David Rakoff

A narrative done through rhyming verse.

I dunno. Overall I was underwhelmed by this one. However, I did enjoy parts of it and it was really interesting to see someone attempt to tell a story through rhyme like that. So while I'm glad I read it, the story it was telling just didn't interest me.

R.I.P. David Rakoff.


Party of One:
A Loners' Manifesto

by. Anneli Rufus

A book defending and explaining the loners of our world.

Lots of interesting ideas and fabulous explanations, but overall there was something about this book that just bothered me.

I'm a loner so I could relate a lot to what she was saying.

“IMAGINE YOU'RE A loner whose ideal home would be a cottage on the beach, miles from the nearest neighbor. And your ideal day would be one in which you slept from noon to dinnertime, worked half the night, then split the rest between raising pigeons and walking—alone, of course—on the beach.”

I mean, wow. I can definitely relate to that one.

“Shared time, while not entirely wasted if the sharer is a true friend, must be parceled out with care... And time shared, even with true friends, often requires loners to put in EXTRA time alone, overtime, to recharge. It is a matter of energy: As a rule, loners have less for the social machinery, the talk and sympathy. Our fuel runs out. This is what nonloners don't understand about us...”

EXACTLY! This book truly understands us loners and does a great job explaining how we work.

The problem was that what started out as an interesting look at how loners work and are perceived eventually degrades into self-aggrandizing rants and unfettered metaphors. She would often portray the traits of loners as if they were superior. I think that's not only untrue, but also a little offensive. We all have friends who are loners and those who aren't, but to say that one side is intrinsically better is ridiculous. To be fair I don't feel that was the author's intent, I think she was trying to compensate for the general undervaluing of such traits, but that's just not how it came off to me.

[AC]   61.   [AC]

The Great Showdowns:
The Return

by. Scott Campbell

The second collection of Campbell's Great Showdowns collection.

If you love movies then you've gotta love Scott Campbell's Great Showdown pieces. They are just too much fun. If I had a coffee table you'd better believe these would be on there. It's just a blast to look through them and remember the movies you've seen and guess at the ones you haven't. And if you look at them with friends it's even more fun! Then it sparks discussions and jokes and is a catalyst for good times.

Plus while they're already fun in their online form, they are all the better as book collections. I've got nothing but love for Great Showdowns.

*   62.   *

I, Jedi

by. Michael A. Stackpole

After his wife is kidnapped, an interpol agent is forced to accept his long lost jedi heritage in order to gain the skills he needs to find and rescue her.

Yes, yes, in my youth I was the kind of kid that you could find reading Star Wars books. I've since gotten rid of most of them, but this one was one of my favorites. It's been years and years since I last read it so I figured I'd reread it.

Overall, I certainly wouldn't recommend it to anyone for its literary merit, but I still enjoyed it. It's got jedi fun and x-wing battles and all that great stuff. And as a light read it's great fun.


My Planet:
Finding Humor in the Oddest Places

by. Mary Roach

A collection of Mary Roach's short essays for The Reader's Digest.

I saw that this was a collection of Mary Roach's short essays and I was sold. Yes, please. I expected it to be Roach's equivalent to Bill Bryson's I'm a Stranger Here Myself. But I was wrong.

I probably should have taken the time to notice that these short essays were for The Reader's Digest. If I was a middle-aged married woman I think I would enjoy this book greatly, but alas, I am not. Thus this really wasn't my kind of thing. However, I passed it on to my mom and she seems to have thoroughly enjoyed it. So there you go.

[GN]   64.   [GN]

Sailor Twain
- or -
The Mermaid in the Hudson

by. Mark Siegel

The story of a riverboat captain who rescues a mermaid and becomes bewitched. Now he must get to the bottom of the mermaid's curse if he is to ever be free of it.

Picked this one up on a whim from the library and was pleased to find that it was actually a lot of fun. It proved to be a really interesting twist on mermaids and I especially love how everything takes place on a river.


A Pound of Steam

by. Dessa

A collection of poems from the rapper Dessa.

I lovelovelove Dessa's lyrics and her book of short stories Spiral Bound was phenomenal, so I was pretty darn excited for her to release this book of poetry. But, personally, it fell flat for me. Her poems lacked the snappy punch of her lyrics, and the great narrative structure of her short stories. But poetry is a very subjective medium, so I wouldn't give too much weight to my opinion.

*   66.   *

Gil's All Fright Diner

by. A. Lee Martinez

When a late night diner finds itself overrun with zombies it's up to an overweight werewolf and a balding vampire to save the day.

This is the first A. Lee Martinez book I ever read and it remains my favorite. Seriously, if you like stories about monsters and you're looking for a fun light read, you can't go wrong with this one. The characters are great and the whole thing is just a blast. It's got spirits trapped in magic 8 balls, wannabe cults, ghost dogs, and even zombie cows!

*   67.   *


by. A. Lee Martinez

When fantastical creatures keep inserting themselves into her life, a woman is thrust into the veiled world of magic & monsters and it's up to a hapless crypto-zoological animal catcher to keep her safe.

Another one of my favorite of Martinez' books. It's a light read, but tons of fun. I always have a blast reading it. It creates so many interesting visuals and new spins on classic ideas.

[GN]   68.   [GN]

The Search

written by. Gene Luen Yang, Michael Dante Di Martino, & Bryan Konietzko
art by. Gurihiro

The continuing story of the events after Avatar: The Last Airbender. This adventure finally explains what happened to Zuko's mother.

I think I've said this before, but I'm thoroughly enjoying these Avatar comics. They are just so well done. Admittedly the last volume in this storyline was a little too magical and happily-ever-after for my tastes, but I found the majority of it to be very well done and add a lot of depth to Zuko's history. Plus I'm a sucker for anytime spirits come into play.


The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth

by. Reza Aslan

A look at the historical Jesusthe manand establishing a context for the times in which he lived.

By far one of the most interesting non-fiction books I read this year. This book is fascinating and that's an understatement. I never would have stopped going to church if the people there had dealt with Christianity with half the insight, knowledge, and passion that Reza Aslan brings to the table. Especially since one of my major problems with modern Christianity is the idea of Jesus being God and not a man with flaws. A real person is so much more compelling than an ideal one.

If you're not sure, I would recommend watching this interview with Reza Aslan from The Daily Show where they talk about the book.

“...the one thing any comprehensive study of the historical Jesus should hopefully reveal is that Jesus of Nazareth—Jesus the man— is every bit as compelling, charismatic, and praiseworthy as Jesus the Christ. He is, in short, someone worth believing in.”


Superman on the Couch:
What Superheroes Really Tell Us About Ourselves and Our Society

by. Danny Fingeroth

[The subtitle kind of says it all.]

Overall I’d say the questions this book asks are much more interesting than the answers it provides. This probably has a lot to do with the fact that it’s based almost entirely around the author’s personal thoughts and a handful of 2nd hand sources. As an academic/in-depth look at the subject of Superheroes as a lens for society, the book falls flat on its face. Anyone can propose interesting questions and theories about a genre, but if you don’t have evidence to back up your claims, then what’s the point?

It’s Fingeroth’s personal views from his years of experience working in comics, however, that save this book and kept me from tossing it aside. For example, his chapter on teenage superheroes (Chapter 8 “Changing Voices: From Robin to Spider-Man”) is particularly fascinating due to his close relationship with the Spider-Man series during his career in comics. It's made me look at Spider-Man in an entirely new light.

“It took Spider-Man to break the mold of the teen hero, in ways both subtle and obvious. The mythos of the character has become so much a part of pop culture that it's easy to forget just how different he was. So many characters have built upon or outright swiped from Spider-Man, that his shifting of the paradigm of what defines a superhero—teenage or otherwise—is taken for granted...”

In the end I think that if he had tailored the book more to his strengths, made it more personal and less attempted-academic, it would have been greatly improved. He has so many great questions and ideas; if he written the book in the form of him going around to other professionals in the field and asking them for their opinions on the topics and questions he had come up with? As well as bouncing some of his own theories off of them? That would have been AMAZING! I would have loved to read a book like that.

As the books stands, it’s just alright, but I’m glad I read it. If nothing else it’s given me a lot of interesting questions to think about…not to mention the brilliance of Chapter 8.


The Ocean at the End of the Lane

by. Neil Gaiman

A man sits at the pond that had been an ocean when he was a young boy and remembers the time when a strange girl at the end of the lane helped him fight an ancient evil.

I wasn't sure what to expect going into this book, but it turned out to be the best new book I read this year. Holy crap is it ever good. Neil Gaiman is the master of the modern fairy tale.

I don't even know what to say about it. It has left me speechless. The next time I'm at a book store I'm buying myself a copy, because it is just so many kinds of brilliant. Seriously, do yourself a favor and go read it.

*   72.   *

In the Company of Ogres

by. A. Lee Martinez

The leaders of Ogre Company seem to have an unfortunate affliction for dying.  So  the higher-ups decide this will be a perfect time to give a promotion to their resident hapless immortal, Never Dead Ned. But when Ned takes charge he begins to learn that there are worse things than dying. Much worse.

I reread this one because I was considering to drop it from my collection. I have now decided that that is a good idea. It's not a bad story, in fact it's a pretty fun light read. But there's just not enough substance there.

I also don't like how all the ladies are falling for Ned for no reason.


A History of Uncommissioned Urban Art

by. Carlo McCormick, Marc Shiller, & Sara Schiller

A collection of interesting photos of street art and also some rather unfortunate bits of text.

The pictures were great, but the writing was often rather art-critic pretentious. In spite of its title, the book is definitely not a “History” of anything; it's more of a coffee table street art book / collection of philosophical musings on graffiti than anything else. It's not bad for what it is, but it's definitely a letdown if you're expecting “A History of Uncommissioned Urban Art.



by. Mira Grant

In the future, genetically modified tapeworms will save us from disease. However, there's just one unfortunate side effect...

I lovelovelove Mira Grant's Newsflesh series so I was incredibly excited to see her new series make its debut. But I think I got my hopes a little too high.

I think my biggest problem was that the story seems to think it's being clever when it's actually being SUPER obvious. I mean, when the synopsis on the back of the book says the worms want their own lives, and you have a character who had an accident and now can't remember anything of her past life, and considers herself a completely different person, and has dreams of being in a dark aquatic environment with the constant sound of a heartbeat!? I mean, it's kind of obvious what she's building up to. So its “reveal” at the end isn't a surprise. It's just drawn out and silly.

Plus, the main character is kind of the worst. She's horribly annoying. She's super teenage angsty and is pissy at her family for them having trouble dealing with the fact that their daughter nearly died and suddenly has a completely different personality. I mean, how dare they, right? I mean, even if you are a different person, that means their daughter is DEAD! And now this new person is walking around in her skin. Show some freakin' compassion, you ass.

Also I think we're supposed to be on her side when her family treats her like a child even though she's an adult? Buuuut, she did quite possibly have a seizure while driving, nearly died, and is currently showing multiple signs of significant brain damage. So, unless she wants to be confined to a hospital ward, maybe she should just deal with it.

OH! And she has an insane phobia of cars and freaks the fuck out at anyone who isn't paying 100% attention while driving. Frankly I can't understand why anyone would put up with her. “Meeeeh, pay attention to the road! If you don't I'm gonna get out and walk the 30 miles to get there by myself! Meeenuuhh! MEEENNGGHHFHDH!” Well, fine! Ugh! Get the fuck out and walk. I was doing you a favor. God. Have fun being an asshole to side of the road. I'll see you at home in 10 hours.

So aside from those not-so-minor problems, the heart of the story was fun and interesting. It just felt like this book was just here to set everything up. I think the sequel will be significantly better. A lot of interesting stuff was set-up at the end and I'd like to see where it goes. However, I have a feeling that the main character is going to prevent me from ever loving this series.


Ghastly Beyond Belief

edited by. Neil Gaiman & Kim Newman

A collection of humorous excerpts from the worst (and occasionally the best) Science Fiction novels have to offer.

I've been wanting to read this book for years, but I've never been able to find a copy. I finally broke down and ordered it through interlibrary loan. I don't know about you, but this is right up my alley. And I was pleased to find that they didn't just collecting hilarious quotes from the text of the books, but they also got them from movie posters, book jackets, and all kinds of other wonderful sources. Really, I'm shocked this book is out of print. If you're a fan of Sci-Fi and/or MST3K then I think you'll have a lot of fun with this book.

[P.S. If you ever see this at a used book store, you should probably buy it and give it to me.]

“She held Hilda to her and let her have a good cry, and this was a wonderful relief after all the pent up feelings of those last few days of prison and cruel treatment by the octopoids.”

-Tom Wade, The World of Theda

'What a beautiful night,' Pat remarked as they passed alongside the barbed-wire fence which enclosed War Department property. 'If only we didn't have to worry about giant crabs!'

-Guy N. Smith, Night of the Crabs

The first was a woman of about forty-five and she'd been attractive until someone had hewn her almost in half.
-Lionel & Patricia Fanthrope, The Black Lion

“Some doddering scientists sneer at the idea of travel between stars. The nearest star, they say, is 25 trillion miles away. They forget that monorail trains are capable of astonishing speeds (over 200 m.p.h.!). Doubtless, despite the skeptics, we’ll have regular train service to Alpha Centauri and other stars, by the end of the century.”

-John Sladek, Space Shoes of the Gods

[GN]   76.   [GN]

The Complete Essex County

by. Jeff Lemire

A collection of three interconnected stories surrounding the people of a small county in Canada.

I've read the first two stories in the collection before, but let me tell you, they are so much better when they're are collected together and joined with the third story. This whole series is just so well done. This is one of those comics that I would show to someone who thought comics were just for kids, just stupid stories about superheros.

This arc Jeff Lemire has created here is just so powerful and moving. It moves between youth and old age, despair and hope. It's just beautifully done all around. I can't recommend this one enough.


Unnatural Creatures

edited by. Neil Gaiman

A collection of short stories about unusual creatures.

After The Ocean at the End of the Lane I felt compelled to give some other Neil Gaiman books a try. This one's pretty fun. Like any collection some stories are definitely better than others. I love monster stories and I enjoyed reading it, but I'm glad I only checked it out from the library.

[GN]   78.   [GN]

Dial H
Vol. 1: Into You

written by. China Mieville

art by. Mateus Santolouco, David Lapham, & Riccardo Burchielli

An out of work schlub accidentally discovers that by dialing 4376 into a certain payphone he'll be temporarily transformed into a random superhero.

I was really interested in this one because I'm a big China Mieville fan and the premise sounded delightfully bizarre. And while it does have its moments, I was disappointed to find out that overall there's nothing of substance here.

Also, for the love of God, DC. Would it kill you to stick with one artist? I realize it might slow down your releases, but who gives a shit? Your stories look like they were drawn by someone who has to dial 278478 into a payphone every issue to turn into a random artist.

[GN]  79.   [GN]

Animal Man
Vol. 3: Rotworld: The Red Kingdom

written by. Jeff Lemire, Scott Snyder
art by. Steve Pugh, Marco Rudy, Andrew Belanger, et al.

A once brilliant series decides to turn away from their brilliant horror concept and fully embrace subpar superhero idiocy.

Oh, this series has fallen so far from where it started. I don't blame the authors as much as I blame the genre. The Achilles' heel of the DC and Marvel universes is that they want all their stories to be a part of the same world so they can have crossovers and shit. But because of that no one story can really go very big because it would influence the others too much.

I think if this series had been retooled as its own separate entity it would have been Brilliant. But in its current form it is a pale shadow of what it could have been. I mean, this whole volume is essentially telling some huge crossover post apocalyptic scenario and then SPOILER ALERT/: they go back in time and undo everything. So there was no point to it what so ever. /End of Alert

Not to mention that, no surprise, DC once again insisted on using a clown car full of artists. Just pick one! God! Is that so hard? Is it so wrong to want a story to have the same look throughout? Am I the crazy one here?

UGH! Whatever. Truth be told, I still enjoyed this volume, but for none of the same reasons I loved the earlier stuff. The beginning stuff was dark and epic and frightening. This none of of those things. But it's stupid and doofy and manages to be so bad its amusing.

So yeah. I think I'm gonna stop reading this series now.

[GN]   80.   [GN]


by. Ananth Panagariya
art by. Tessa Stone

An awkward youth named Webster has just started high school and already he's fallen in with the wrong crowd: a pair of could-bes of the dark and dangerous world of underground spelling bees. And what's more he's a natural! But being a part of this world will mean defying his family.

This one had me at the premise. Not to mention the creators. You might be familiar with Ananth Panagariya as the writer of AppleGeeks (now defunct) or his current work on Johnny Wander. Tessa Stone was the creator of the brilliant Hanna is Not a Girl's Name, before she stopped and neglected to tell anyone to stop expecting new strips! But I'm not bitter. (Yes, I am.)

Anyways, this one is just as much fun as it sounds. The art and the writing really combine to create something really enjoyable. Plus I love the look of this thing. It's all done in black and white...and Yellow! I know it sounds a little weird, but trust me, they make it work.

Anyways, I seriously hope this duo either makes a sequel or just does some more projects together in the future, because I love what they've created here.


Tales and Stories by Hans Christian Anderson

by. Hans Christian Anderson
translated by. Patricia L. Conroy & Sven H. Rossel

A collection of fairy tales from the infamous Hans Christian Anderson.

To my discredit I've really never read much of Hans Christian Anderson, but after Frozen came out I figured I should get on that.

First of all, if you ever come across anyone bashing Frozen for not being true to the original “The Snow Queen,” feel free to tell them they're being crazy. The original story is dumb. Not only is it dumb, but it's also all over the map, terribly forced, has an idiotic ending, and is kind of a big middle finger to logic? I guess a nice way to put it is that it's about the heart triumphing over the brain, or whatever, but science/reason bashing is a dangerous train to jump on.

Second of all, Anderson's stories are fucked up. And not fucked up in the wonderfully dark and twisted way of a Grimm Tale, but just fucked up. Case in point: “The Tinderbox.” That is the most superbly fucked up story I have ever heard. It's about a guy being a downright TERRIBLE personwho murders and steals and sexually harasses peopleand is rewarded for it. Fuck that shit. I'm not about to read that to a kid.

Third of all, it was a slog to get through this thing. There are some interesting ideas in a few of the stories, but the stories themselves are so dumb. I don't really care what anyone else says, but I say kudos to Disney, because they vastly improved on “The Little Mermaid” and “The Snow Queen.”

Fourth of all, I'm told his work doesn't translate well, and I hope that's true. I really do, because it's kind of super shitty in English.

[GN]   82.   [GN]

A Softer World, Vol. 4: 
Let's Do Something Wrong

by. Emily Horne & Joey Comeau

The fourth collection of the greatest webcomic ever made: A Softer World.

Best. Webcomic. Ever.

Now in book form, which makes it even better! A Softer World is one of my favorite things in any medium.


The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe

by. C.S. Lewis

 3 nice kids and their asshole brother travel through a wardrobe to a magical world and stick their noses into local politics.

First off, can I just mention how short this book is? I mean holy crap, it's tiny! You can read this in one sitting. I was expecting it to be much bigger. But hey, I guess that's possibly when you just forgo any real character or plot development. Haha! Zing!

I honestly can't remember if I've read this before. I want to say that I have, but maybe I'm just thinking of one of the movie versions I've seen? I can't say for sure.

Anyways, this book is super dull and that makes it a double threat because it's also really dumb. Yep, this book has a big ol' pair of the Double D's.

Reading this book was kind of like the literary equivalent of watching a ridiculous movie. You know, the kind where you're always shouting at the screen?

I was yelling at this thing left and right. For instance, Why would you let children rule you?! Children are stupid, you dumb lion. Even worse, why would you let a child be the general to your army? That little shit has ZERO experience with this. Maybe, just maybe, you should let one of your generals let the army? Just a thought. Also character development. Something to think about including in your next book.

ALSO, what kind of person just straight up forgets their own fucking childhood? These motherfuckers spend like 40 years in this crazy world and in that time they COMPLETELY forget their childhood and are all like Forsooth, what be'ist thone metal pole? The top of it be'ith aglow! As if by spirit fire! It's a fucking streetlight, dumbass! Jesus Christ, you were like 15 when you got here!

Ugh! This book, you guys. This book is ridonkulous.


In the Land of Invented Languages:
Adventures in Linguistic Creativity, Madness, and Genius

by. Arika Okrent

A look at the Who, Whats, and Whys of invented languages.

I grabbed this from the library on a whim, but I was very much pleased to find out that it is fascinating. It dives into not only the history of these invented languages, but also why they were created. Through these invented languages we can really learn more about what works and doesn't work about our own language.

Really, this book impressed me. I was just expecting a fun little read that I might pick up a couple of interesting tidbits from, but it turned out to be an extremely well written book that made me do a considerable amount of it was full of interesting tidbits. If you have an interest in language, or are even intrigued by the idea of language, then I give this book my full recommendation.

[CB]   85.   [CB]

How Do Dinosaurs Say I'm Mad?

by. Jane Yolen
illustrated by. Mark Teague

Dinosaurs are used to show us how NOT to act when we're mad.

I got this one for my nephew for Christmas. He loves dinosaurs...and also gets mad and throws a fit sometimes, so it works!

The artwork is my favorite part. I love how he draws dinosaurs, and I also love that the humans shown are of different ethnicities. Overall it's a fun little book. I would have liked if it talked a little more about what to do with your anger, but I did like how it showed that getting mad and acting out isn't okay and that there are better ways to deal with your anger.

[CB]   86.   [CB]

Last Laughs:
Animal Epitaphs

by. J. Patrick Lewis & Jane Yolen
illustrated by. Jeffrey Stewart Timmins

Humorous epitaphs for different kinds of animals.

My mom got this one for me after seeing it at a used book store. I'm a sucker for oddly dark kid's books. While not all the epitaphs are brilliant, the ones that are make it all worthwhile.


Wicked Bugs:
The Louse that Conquered Napoleon's Army & Other Diabolical Insects

by. Amy Stewart
illustrations by. Briony Morrow-Cribbs

A directory of some of the world's most deadly, dangerous, and just plain annoying bugs.

A follow-up to their book Wicked Plants and equally enjoyable.

There are some truly horrifying things sharing this planet with us...that is what I'm getting from these books.


One Summer:
America, 1927

by. Bill Bryson

A look at the events that shaped the world of America during the summer of 1927.

The best non-fiction book I read this year. It is just so brilliant. If history class in school had been a fraction as fun as this book was I'd have been a history major.

I always enjoy Bill Bryson and this idea suits his style like a glove. It meanders around from event to event and back again, but everything is always connected. History has never been more enjoyable then it was in this book and I can't recommend it to you fiercely enough.