Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Book List 2015: November

I’ve been thinking that perhaps I should start writing little introductions to these lists. That way I can pretend I’m doing more than just...listing things. You know? Heck, look at this right here. It’s like an actual blog or something!

In other news, back when I first started with these book lists I toyed with the idea of including pictures of the books. But was it really necessary? Shouldn’t my words be enough? Would my descriptions pale in comparisons to a picture? Would people “Judging a book by its cover” help or hurt people’s impressions of the books?
But after thinking about it for awhile, I’ve decided that sometimes seeing a book is the first step in wanting to read it. That visual confirmation that it is more than an idea of a book, but a real thing that you can go out there and get.

Plus who hasn’t wandered about a book store and had their eye caught by a saucy little number in a skimpy dust jacket, eh?

And you know what else? Some books just have really cool covers and I always want to honor those in some way.

Long story short: There are pictures now!  So let us get on with some new and improved book listing!


* = reread
{pb}  = Picture Book
[GN] = Graphic Novel or comic anthology
@ = art book

{pb}   146   {pb}

This is Sadie

written by. Sara O’Leary
illustrated by. Julie Morstad

A story about a little girl and all the ways she likes to use her imagination.

It’s a cute little book, but pretty basic. I’m not really sure what it’s trying to get across. It seems a little bit like it’s telling kids about what kids are like? Does a kid really need to hear a story about how kids use their imagination? Kids are kind of the masters of imagination after all.

“Sadie has learned to be quiet in the mornings
because old people need a lot of sleep.”

 {pb}   147   {pb}

Bug in the Vacuum
by. Melanie Watt

When a fly gets trapped inside a vacuum cleaner it begins to go through the 5 stages of grief.

[yeah, yeah, yeah. 2 books in and already I’m missing a cover. But I returned this one to the library before I decided to start cataloging covers! ;___;]

When it comes to teaching kids about the 5 stages of grief I feel like this book does a really great job. But the thing is...I’m not entirely sure that the 5 stages of grief is really a concept that would really be of any use to a little kid? Do kids really think about how they think enough for them to make use of this information?

The bug started here.
It flew into the house...
Buzzed through the bathroom...
Soared past the kitchen...
Zigzagged across a bedroom...
It was on top of the world when it happened.
Its entire life changed with the switch of a button.

*   148   *

John Dies at the End
by. David Wong

As long-time readers will know, this book has shown up on these lists a lot over the years:
  • 2010: I read it for the 1st time.
  • 2012: The sequel came out and I wanted to refresh my memory of the original events before I read it.
  • 2014: Reread it for the thrill of it.
  • This year: I got a fancy new hardcover copy I wanted to break in.

And after all these times, I feel like I need to take another break from reviewing it. So I’ve asked my good friend Sarah to cover for me and luckily she was willing to oblige me. I’ll now pass things over to her [and occasionally interrupt if I have something to add].

WHUT UP EXCUSE THE QUALITY READERS! Sarah is here to blow this shit up with a guest review of David Wong’s John Dies at the End, with Jesse’s explicit permission! Perennial horror favorite or no, I suppose you can only say so many things about a book before you get tired of the sound of your own voice. So Sarah’s here to give you a lady’s perspective!

JDATE is about two loser best buds who get embroiled in a paranormal mind fuck of an adventure after taking a mysterious drug called “soy sauce”. They become all too well acquainted with a menacing god-like being known as Korrok who is intent on enslaving humanity, and it’s up to these jerk-offs to stop him…so, we are all fucked.

I was a reader of David Wong’s articles on Cracked long before I cracked John Dies (Ha! See what I did there?), as well as the articles of John Cheese, also a Cracked columnist, and the basis for the titular John in JDATE. Both of these guys have a tendency to publish Words-of-Wisdom-esque content on the site, and it’s because they have been through a ton of shit together, from addiction and substance abuse, to crippling poverty and abusive relationships. Well, they are adults now and can legitimately claim said wisdom, but if you want to get a picture of what they were like when they were still young and raising hell, then read this book. And the sequel [aka This Book is Full of Spiders].

Why do I mention this? Well, as far as we know the events in this book are fictional (if not, then we are all in big trouble), but if you’ve read their articles you can sure as shit tell that the characters are completely based in reality. Well, we don’t know about Amy, but I secretly hope she’s based on David Wong’s actual wife, because wouldn’t that be the sweetest thing?! (Oops, belated spoiler alert: There is a character named Amy, and she and David may or may not end up together. Also she may or may not be the coolest character, imho) [she definitely is].

But I digress. My point is, it’s all the more touching to read about the protagonist’s struggles with his inner demons when you know that the author is truly speaking from the heart. And boy does he have demons, both real and imaginary, in this case. I’m a self-proclaimed weenie when it comes to horror, so take this for what it’s worth, but David has a talent for inspiring pants-shitting terror. Anyone can make scary monsters (although even they are in a class of their own in this book), but David can make what all horror-lovers (I presume) look for: atmosphere. It’s a testament to the depths of his dark imagination, on par with horror master Clive Barker, and while I definitely have a writer’s crush on David I know I wouldn’t survive a day in his mind. Honestly! Read the book, and then tell me you aren’t afraid of what you’d find lurking in his head on a bad day.

But then, he turns around and surprises you by making you laugh out loud seconds after you’ve soiled yourself. Take this gem for instance:

“A soft thump on the window. Amy screamed.

Outside my window, inches from my face, was the severed head of the truck driver. A six-inch hunk of spinal column dangled from his neck, hanging in midair. His eyes were wide open, no sign of lids, two orbs twitching this way and that, taking us in. Amy was still screaming. Some lungs, that girl.


The head pressed up against the glass to get a look in. Its mouth hung open, lips pressed against the glass, teeth scraping.

‘Amy! Plug your ears!’

I created a gap of about six inches when the head tried to ram into the opening, jaws working, teeth snapping. I jammed the gun in its mouth and squeezed the trigger.

Thunder. The head disintegrated, became a red mist and a rain of bone chips. I glanced at the gun, impressed, wondered about the loads the stranger had sent me. I leaned to the window and screamed, ‘You should have quit while you were a-’


I can honestly say this is the only scary book I’ve read (though I don’t make a habit of them) that also made me laugh my ass off over and over again. The bad [amazing] puns (and there are many) are just the tip of the iceberg, too. John and David together are an unstoppable force of hilarity.

But the laughs aren’t the only reason for my crush on David Wong. I wouldn’t be writing this review if they were. Horror may not be my forte, but romance most certainly is. I’ve read more romance than I have time to tell you about in this century, and I am such a sucker for it. Jesse can confirm that I will put up with almost any amount of bad writing if it leads to a steamy kiss, or even better, steamy love scene [accurate]. But it has to be emotionally satisfying.

David has most obligingly included some romance for sentimental readers like myself. As I hinted earlier, Amy is a love interest, and while David sadly doesn’t get all that graphic with his sex references, I definitely felt emotionally satisfied by the romance. David’s tenderness toward Amy, the care the author put into the development of their relationship, and the depth and impact of Amy’s character are what put me firmly in the die-hard-David-Wong-fan camp. And it only gets BETTER in the sequel [it totally does].

If all these rantings have not given you enough reason to go out and buy this book, then perhaps David Wong isn’t for you. In which case, you’re probably not my kind of reader anyway, so what are you still doing here? Just go out and buy it. Convert to the horrific dark side. It has some perks, even for a weenie like me.

[GN]   149.   [GN]

This One Summer
 by. Jillian & Mariko Tamaki 

Rose and her parents are going to Awago beach like they do every summer. But unlike every other summer this trip is cursed with conflicts. People are growing up and others are growing apart.

It’s hard not be transported back to your childhood while reading this book. Honestly it’s one of the best YA graphic novels I’ve read. It perfectly captures that childhood dichotomy of feeling scared of the future and not knowing who are, yet still being able to slip into a world of adventure and fun with your friends.

That feeling of when you were a kid and the world felt so big and that was thrilling and terrifying all at the same time. You had the power to do anything, but sometimes too small to do anything too.

Trust me on this: its just a really great read.

“‘Like they even know what a blow job is.’

‘Its ORAL SEX, kids!’”
-pg. 60-61


How to Build a Girl
by. Caitlin Moran

When 15 year old Johanna Morgan embarrasses herself on live television she becomes a bit of a social pariah. Obviously there’s only one thing to do: ditch her old life and be someone new. Enter Dolly Wilde: a new persona who’s everything Johanna wishes she could be. But when she slips too far into her wild music-critic persona, she has to fight her way back to herself.

I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel about this one seeing as how I am notoriously terrible when it comes to remembering song titles...and band names...and really any sort of music-world knowledge. But there is something so irresistibly charming about this book that transcends its world of rock criticism.

Johanna Morgan’s lovably awkward thoughts and adventures are so much fun. And Moran skillfully uses these escapades to sprinkle in a number of profound thoughts about life and what growing up really means. Not to mention that its sex scenes are some of the laugh-out-loud funniest I’ve seen. Her bit about the dangers of an overly large penis is particularly wonderful.

“I also have one nonsexual skill I want to master: typing while smoking, like in His Girl Friday, and all pictures of Hunter S. Thompson. I’ve attempted it before, but the smoke always goes right into my eyes—leaving me smoking, weeping, and typing, all at the same time.

Last time I did it, Krissi saw me, left the room, and came back with a pair of swimming goggles.

‘To help you look cool,’ he said, putting them next to my laptop and patting me on the head pityingly.”

-pg. 236-237


The One and Only Ivan
by. Katherine Applegate

After being captured as a child a gorilla named Ivan has spent most of his life as an attraction at a mall. But when the mall gets a new baby elephant to try and boost sales Ivan is forced to confront the facts about his life. And he’s decided to do everything he can to save her from the kind of life he’s had.

Just in case you’re wondering, YES. Katherine Applegate is the same person as K.A. Applegate (aka the creator of Animorphs)! Animorphs, you guys!

Anyways, simple writing always carry with it a high degree of difficulty. The less words you use the more they have to count. So I was a little nervous when I first starting reading this one and saw the very simple style of its writing. But she really utilizes it extremely well.

Since it’s all written from the perspective of the gorilla she makes a point of noting that a gorilla wouldn’t think like we do. They wouldn’t have our same love affair with words, and so Ivan’s words and thoughts are much simpler and it really works.

It’s a simple story, simply told, but it’s extremely WELL told.

“It’s true that some of my visitors don’t linger the way they used to. They stare through the glass, they cluck their tongues, they frown while I watch my TV.

‘He looks lonely,’ they say.

Not so long ago, a little boy stood before my glass, tears streaming down his smooth red cheeks. ‘He must be the loneliest gorilla in the world,’ he said, clutching his mother’s hand.

At times like that, I wish humans could understand me the way I can understand them.

It’s not so bad, I wanted to tell the little boy. With enough time, you can get used to almost anything.”

-pg. 21-22

[GN]   152.   [GN]

Hyperbole and a Half
by. Allie Brosh

Through an amalgamation of story-telling, stand-up comedy, and comics; Allie Brosh recounts stories of her childhood, trials with her problematic dogs, her battles with of depression, and more.

It’s hard to properly explain Hyperbole and a Half to someone who’s never heard of it, because it’s rather unique. There’s too much text for it to be a graphic novel and there’s too many comics for it be a typical memoir. It has too many laughs to be Serious, but too realistic too properly be called pure Humor. It’s in a league of its own.

But what there is no question of is that it’s brilliant. It’s clever, and insightful, and somehow turns serious topics into hilarious ones.

It also has some of the greatest depictions of what depression feels like that I have ever seen.

I had never read the book until now, because I had already read all of her stories on her blog. But only recently did I realize that there were some original stories in the book. So I promptly had to set out to read it. And was very much glad I did.

P.S. This NPR interview with her is really great.

P.P.S. She has a new book coming out in 2016!

[GN]   153.   [GN]

Baba Yaga’s Assistant
written by. Marika McCoola
illustrated by. Emily Carroll

A young woman decides to become the assistant to an infamous witch.

Not gonna lie, I read this one first and foremost because of Emily Carroll. And secondly because Baba Yaga stories are pretty rad.

All in all, it’s a pretty good story, but it’s definitely aiming at a younger audience. So not really the sort of thing I’d buy for myself, but definitely something I’d recommend for younger readers.

I always a sucker for stories where the hero must rely on cleverness to win the day instead of violence.

I also love how Baba Yaga is depicted in this story. She’s not a nice person, but that doesn’t make her an evil one either. The combination of her and the main character is really great and I kind of hope McCoola and Carroll tell more of their adventures together.

“‘I’m going to the woods.

Now that’s you’re gone, I don’t really have anyone.

Dad’s found a new family. Why can’t I?
I know Baba Yaga is a witch…
but she’s a grandma, too. Right?
But I don’t think her grandchildren help her.

I’m tired of being overlooked. I need to do something useful for someone.
You had your adventure with Baba Yaga…

It’s time for me to have mine.’”


{pb}   154.  {pb}

The Gashlycrumb Tinies
or, After the Outing

by. Edward Gorey

 An A to Z look at a group of children’s ghastly ends.

This is one of the most amazing books I have ever read. I so wish I could have been the one to write this. It is a perfect example of that wonderful blend of hilarious and horrific that I love so much.

And the poetry is just SPOT ON. Seriously. Read this thing out loud and you’ll see what I mean.

& the art is wonderful too. Not to mention that the front and back cover work as part of the story! I just love this book so much!!

I is for IDA who drowned in a lake
J is for JAMES who took lye by mistake
K is for KATE who was struck with an axe
L is for LEO who swallowed some tacks”

[GN]   155.   [GN]
The Undertaking of Lily Chen
by. Danica Novgorodoff

When his unwed brother dies in an accident, Deshi’s parents order him to go an find a corpse to be his brother’s bride in the afterlife. But grave robbing ain’t no walk in the park and if he can’t find a suitable one he might just have to resort to...let’s just say “alternative means” of procuring one.

A surprisingly bland story considering the subject matter. Overall it was pretty forgettable.

“In the year 208 AD, the son of the warlord Cao Cao became gravely ill. Cao Cao spared no expense or effort to save Cao Chong, a child prodigy and his favorite of twenty-five sons;

Nonetheless the boy died at the age of thirteen.

Dear son, child not yet a man, who will hold your hand as you approach the gates of heaven?

Who will lie with you in the dark eternal bedroom?

Cao Cao, the bereaved, called before him the marriage brokers, the doctors, the undertakers, and the gravediggers of his dominion.

And he said to them,

Find me the body of a woman.

And they found him the body of a woman, a deceased daughter from the esteemed clan of Zhen. The corpse bride was prepared, and the grieving father presided over his son’s ghost marriage.

Sweet boy, you who have known so little of life, be brave, for you are not alone. Sleep long in the arms of your lover.

pg. 15-30


Slasher Girls & Monster Boys
edited by. April Genevieve Tucholke

A collection of short YA horror stories. Each based on a famous book/song/movie (or a combination thereof).

I went into this expecting this to be some Goosebumps-level horror, but I was pleasantly surprised to find it deals with some much harder material. There’s definitely some dark stuff happening in this thing. Nothing an adult horror-enthusiast is going to bat an eye at, but certainly something that might very well spook out some middle/high schoolers. Plus since all the stories are inspired by various horror classics of pop-culture, it also works nicely as a primer for the future horror fans of the world.

The average level of quality among the stories was actually a lot higher than I was expecting too. (A quality absent among many short story collections, don’t you think?). Some were definitely better than others, but overall they were all pretty good.

All in all a pretty fun piece of spooky literature.

“Annie stepped onto the front porch. The screen door thwacked behind her, echoing through the narrow valley loud enough to scare a flock of crows into flight. They disappeared over the ridge  into the fading summer sun. She pressed a hand to her rib cage and slowly sank into one of the rusty metal chairs, watching for the crows to come back. She hoped they would. She was already feeling sleepy. It was a heavy sort of feeling, but not unpleasant—like being wrapped in a winter blanket. She let her arm fall away from her ribs, releasing a gush of blood that soaked her new sundress, rolled down her bare leg, pooled thickly on the uneven boards.

Dying wasn’t so bad, not really.

-pg. 116-117, from Megan Shepherd’s “Hide-And-Seek

*   168.   *

The Truth
by. Terry Pratchett

William de Worde is a man with a passion for two things: the truth and words. But when he stumbles onto an ingenious new dwarfish invention his humble reports on the events of Ankh-Morpork rapidly mutate into a whole new medium. With the public hungry for the news and his list of enemies growing by the day, Mr. de Worde and his dwarfish business partners are going to have to either race to be two steps ahead of their creation or else risk being consumed by it.

Yeeeeeesssssss! This is it. This. Is. It!

Welcome to the Golden Age of Discworld, my friends.

The plots are tighter, the jokes are the funnier, the stories are bigger, and the observations more eloquently thoughtful than ever!

To tell you the truth I read this one out of order. I actually read Thief of Time first, but this one was written before that one. Ack! And I had been doing so well keeping them in order...

But in my defense I only did that because the list of Discworld books in one of the older books lied to me! I swear! But I’ve just gone ahead and swapped them in the list here for posterity sake.

But whatever!

In any case I love this one. Subjects of satire include: Journalism, print media, the news, and the concept of Truth.

Pratchett always does a great job of creating really layered characters and it shows in this one. Where their greatest faults are often also their greatest strengths. Although, on that note, the exception in this one is that I kind of felt that de Worde always seemed to come out on top and I would have liked to see him get bested once or twice? You know, just to make him a little less invincible. But then again I’m a pretty huge Vimes fan so it was kind of aggravating to see him get bested by Worde so much.

The real shame of the book though is that it’s the only one that focuses on The Ankh-Morpork Times. The crew certainly make cameo appearances in the other books, but never again in a starring role. Which is a bit of a shame, because they are a pretty fun bunch. And who doesn’t enjoy a good journalistic Thriller now and again?

But that is the brilliance of the Discworld books. No matter how many of them you read they always leave you wanting more. The world is so richly layered and no matter how many corners and alleys it shows you, you always end up wondering what’s going on in all the others.

“‘Mr. Goodmountain?’ said William. ‘Large type, please.’

‘Got you,’ said the dwarf. His hand hovered over a fresh case.

‘In caps, size to fit, “Who Runs Ankh-Morpork?”’ said William. ‘Now into body type, upper and lowercase, across two columns: “Who is governing the city while Lord Vetinari is imprisoned? Asked for an opinion today, a leading legal figure said he did not know and it was no concern of his. Mr. Slant of the Lawyers’ Guild went on to say—”’

‘You can’t put that in your newspaper!’ barked Slant.

‘Set that directly, please, Mr. Goodmountain.’

‘Setting it already,’ said the dwarf, the leaden slugs clicking into place. Out of the corner of his eye William saw Otto emerging from the cellar and looking puzzled at the noise.

‘“Mr. Slant went on to say…”?’ said William, glaring at the lawyer.

‘You will find it very hard to print that,’ said Mr. Carney, ignoring the lawyer’s frantic hand signals, ‘with no damn press!’

‘“...was the view of Mr. Carney of the Guild of Engravers,” spelled with an e before the y,’ said William, ‘“who earlier today tried to put the Times out of business by means of an illegal document,”' Williams realized that, although his mouth felt full of acid, he was enjoying this immensely. ‘“Asked for his opinion of this flagrant abuse of city laws, Mr. Slant said…”?’


‘...Full caps for the whole sentence please, Mr. Goodmountain.’”


[GN]   158.   [GN]

Bitch Planet, vol.1:
Extraordinary Machine

written by. Kelly Sue DeConnick
art by. Valentine De Landro

In a world where non-compliant women are rounded up and sent to a prison planet, a group of inmates gets a chance to fight back.

Imagine, if you will, Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale combined with the movie The Longest Yard...but in outer space. That pretty much what this is.

Overall it fell a bit flat, but I’ve gotta admit it had potential. I can see what they’re trying to do with the story and I feel like they’ve got some great pieces on the board, but they only just started to use them properly.

Do you FIT in your BOX?
Are you too FAT,
Too SHY,
You just may belong on…


-back cover


John Waters Hitchhikes Across America
by. John Waters

John Waters decides to hitchhike across the country, from Baltimore to San Francisco, and document his trip along the way. The story takes place in 3 parts: his imagined Best Case Scenario of how the trip could go, his Worst Case Scenario, and what actually happened.

Yes, parts of the book went a little too deep into the world of John Waters-styled depravity for my tastes (primarily in his imagined Best/Worst Case scenarios). And, yes, I frequently found myself thinking that he would have had a MUCH harder time on this journey had he not been rich and famous. But, overall, this was still a really fun read and it made me laugh out loud more than once.

“‘Oh my God!’ I hear him yell to just about everybody. ‘Did you see that?! That was John Waters. I’m almost certain he has shit his pants!!’ I hear grown men laugh in constipated smugness and digestive superiority.”


*  {pb}   160.   {pb}  *

The Monster at the End of This Book
written by. Jon Stone
illustrated by. Michael Smollin

Grover has seen the title of this book and is begging you to please stop reading it so you don’t meet the monster. Pleeaase?

I had kind of forgotten that this book existed, which is a shame as it used to be one of the books we had on the bookshelf at home when I was growing up. It really is great little book. It breaks the fourth wall in a really fun way and is pretty cute.

The only thing I can say against it is that the layouts are, how do I put this...hopelessly 70s?


Listen, I have an idea. If you do not turn any pages, we will never get to the end of this book.

And that is good, because there is a Monster at the end of this book.

So please do not turn the page.


[GN]   161.   [GN]

Adventure Time
with Fionna & Cake
by. Natasha Allegri

The continuing adventures of everybody’s favorite genderbent Adventure Time fan-fiction duo: Fionna and Cake!

So for those of you who don’t already know, Adventure Time artist Natasha Allegri used to post these gender-bent drawings of AT characters on her blog for fun. People ended up really liking them so AT ended up making a couple of episodes starring them. & it turns out they are just as amazing as you’d hope they’d be! & this comic is just as cute as we AT fans had hoped it would be as well.

Not only is this story charming and full of all the Adventure Time fun one would want, but it’s also got this little fairy tale at the very start that is just amazing. It makes me really wish that Natasha would do a whole book of little fairy tale comics.

“There’s so much strange magic in this world… careful with it, Fionna.”

*   162.   *

by. Joey Comeau

The story of a man dealing with the loss of his brother as told through the bizarre cover letters he keeps sending in to various jobs.

I love this book so much! It’s the perfect example of what makes Joey Comeau so amazing. He goes into those dark cellars of the human experience and shines a flashlight into the corners and says, “See? It’s not so bad. It’s dark and wet and cold...but it’s not so bad. We can find beauty here too.”

It somehow manages to simultaneously hilarious and yet still touching. His humor proving to be a sweet compliment to the bitter truths he exposes.

“I climbed back up, tearing my hands on rust and too angry to care. Adrian laughed until I was right there, until I was up on that barn again and I almost had him, and then he turned and leapt. He never looked first.

I learned that from my younger brother. You don’t look first. You jump and you trust that your body knows what to do. You don’t know what I mean, do you, Absolut? Your commercials are all pretty pictures and clever design. They’re very attractive. I am applying for a job, because I don’t think you understand what it means to be cool or strong or invincible.” 

-pg. 14


by. Joey Comeau

 A collection of Joey Comeau’s wonderfully insane cover letters.

So right off the bat this book tells me:

“Dear Reader,

Thank you for taking the time to read this, my second collection of cover letters. But before you start, I wanted to make something clear. This is a different book from the first. This volume is a collection of more funny letters, and not an experimental novel in the way the first one was. There is no hidden narrative in these pages. No story of a doomed romance, no struggles with the death of a loved one. Though ever letter is signed with my name, you’ll find a different sort of crazy person at the heart of each.

Also worth noting: every one of these letters was actually sent to a company, and not one of them ever replied. It breaks my heart.

I hope you like the book.

Joey Comeau”

Which is both a good and a bad thing. To tell you the truth I was a little hesitant at the idea of a sequel because I love the original so much. So to hear that it isn’t a true sequel was nice, but at the same time the experimental novel aspect was part of what I loved so much about the first one! *Conflicted.*

But this is actually the origin of Overqualified. Joey would send out these wonderfully insane cover letters to jobs and document them. The very fact he turned that project into the first book is a move of pure genius, but the original project was delightful at its inception to be sure.

The letters are brilliant and hilarious and twisted and an absolute delight.

“Dear Armdale Tea Room,

I am writing to apply for the position of Dishwasher (Casual), because, let’s face it, dishwashing isn’t a career. I’m not going to sit up all night and worry about the stats on my quarterly dishwashing report. I want to show up for my shift, wash gross half-eaten food off plates for a few hours, and then go home. It sounds like the sort of job that I don’t even need to think about while I’m doing it. I can think about weird sex things or about what if zombies were racist, would they not eat you if they hated the colour of your skin? Would you be safe? Or would they eat you out of spite?

I need to make a few extra dollars to pay rent, to buy groceries. I don’t want to have to care what your company stands for, or try to make myself sound like some kind of inhuman perfect employee.”



Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits
by. David Wong

In a near-future world, a young woman learns that her shitty absentee father has just died and left her everything. Oh, and did I mention that her dad was also a billionaire industrialist and quite probably (aka most definitely) involved in some illegal activities to boot? Because he totally was! Unfortunately this means that he’s painted a huge target on her back and suddenly everyone wants a piece of her...some more literally than others.

Boy, was this book ever disappointing!

I’m such a big fan of his John Dies books, so I had such high hopes for this one. But jeezlouise, this thing feels like something that would be his first novel, not his third. It’s a HUGE step backward.

The characters are all bland and 2-dimensional. There’s 3 female characters in the whole book: 1 is a “sexy seductress,” 1 is a mom/stripper/damsel in distress, and the last is the main character who is essentially more often than not just a damsel in distress.

Not to mention that the writing gets rather sexist and racist at times. I mean, at one point the book seems to be trying to show human trafficking and selling women into sex slavery as good things? And the whole Look at all this wacky Future Technology!”-angle just comes across as an excuse for lazy writing wherein nothing needs to make any real sense, because of reasons.

I mean, if you told me these things before I’d read it, I probably wouldn’t have believed you. I would have trusted in my deep love for his other books. So feel free to make up your own mind about it, but if you start reading it and find yourself thinking “Jeez, I hope it gets better than this”? Trust me on this: it doesn’t.

“You didn’t hear a goddamned word I said. You say you’re not a hero? Well, I’m going to tell you the best and the worst thing you’ve ever heard. Heroes aren’t born. You just go out there and grind it out. You fail and you look foolish and you just keep grinding. There is nothing else. There is no “chosen one,” there is no destiny, nobody wakes up one day and finds out they’re amazing at something. There’s just slamming your head into the wall, refusing to take no for an answer. Being relentless, until either the wall or your head breaks. You want to be a hero? You don’t have to make some grand decision. There’s no inspirational music, there’s no montage. You just don’t quit.”


The Witch’s Boy
by. Kelly Barnhill

The son of a witch and the daughter of a bandit king are forced to join forces in order to stop their countries from going to war.

There’s a lot of stuff I like about this book, but overall it just never managed to break its way into the world of greatness.

It had a some fun characters, some really interesting concepts, and (I know this sounds weird) but I loved its use of italics to add emphasis. But the story always felt...small? Like, despite what was happening in the story, everything always felt small and contained that the threats didn’t seem all that important in comparison.

So, all in all, I’m glad I read it and I plan to keep my eye on this author because I think she has the potential to make something really great.

“She climbed down and marveled at his face. She didn’t think she had ever had an expression like it in all her life. Home, she realized. He wants to go home.

Áine’s home was an empty place with a father who was there only sometimes—and one day would never be. Ned has people who loved him. All the time. Foolish people, surely, who, like the rest of his countrymen, believed foolish things, but they were there, and they loved. And that wasn’t nothing. She shoved her hands in her pockets and cleared her throat. ‘It will be dark soon,’ she said, ‘and we dont have much cover her on the riverbed. Lets find the trail and we’ll sleep in the forest, next to the ridge.

Áine leaped lightly off the boulder and rushed past Ned with out looking him in the eye. She didnt want to see his sympathy.

She was supposed to feel sorry for him. Not the other way around.”

-pg. 274

{pb}   166.  {pb}

Tough Guys
(Have Feelings Too)
by. Keith Negley

A look at tough guys and how they have feelings just like anyone else.

Its a short book to be sure, but very well done. I love its message of how tough guys arent the stoic characters theyre made out to be. Theyre real people and they have the same feelings other people do and thats okay. Being tough doesnt mean not having feelings.

And that is a really important message for kids these days. It helps combat the all ideas of toxic masculinity that are out there.

“It’s not always easy being a tough guy…
You might not think it, but tough guys have feelings too.”

[GN]   167. & 172.   [GN]

The Wicked + The Divine

Vol. 1: The Faust Act


Vol. 2: Fandemonium

written by. Kieron Gillen
art by. Jamie McKelvie

Every 90 years Gods from various religions return to Earth in the bodies of young people. They live their for two years and then die. Now its 2014 and theyre back. While some of the gods embrace their time, others fight against their short lives, and all the while humanity loves and fears them.

I want so much to love this series, because the premise is just so darn intriguing! But...I dont know. It just generally seems a little all over the place and not tied together well enough.

Not to mention that it kept killing off my favorite characters! Two volumes read and at the end of each volume my then favorite character would be murdered! Gods dammit, books! Cut it out!

Despite its flaws Ive gotta admit Im curious to see where it goes next.

“Last to pass out, first to come back to reality…
aren’t you the oh-so special one…”


“Father of lies, The Adversary, Lord of the Flies, The Old Serpent, God of This World, Dragon, The Lightbringer, Apollyon, et cera, et cetra.

But you, Laura?

You can call me Luci.”

-issue #1

*   157.   *

Thief of Time
by. Terry Pratchett

Someone has set out to build a perfect clock: one that will not only tell time, but actually trap time. Unfortunately the effects of this would be the end of all times. The universe trapped in a single moment. Its up to the monks of history and a strange school teacher with Death in family to stop the clock from destroying the world.

But theres always time to save the world...right?

You know, I’ve heard some people say that this is the Discworld book they use to introduce people to the series and after rereading it I’ve gotta say that’s not bad idea. It’s takes place outside of the usual pantheon of characters and thus one doesn’t have to worry about anyone alluding to something that happened in a previous book or anything. Plus it is a great showcase of how fun the Discworld can be.

I swear something just clicked into place in The Truth, because after that one Pratchett handles epic storylines like a pro. And this one is no exception. There’s a world on the brink of destruction, a secret society trying to stop Time itself, another secret society set on saving it, wonderfully fun characters, a world worth exploring, laughs, thrills, poignant observations about the human condition, it’s got it all! Just plain chalk full of Pratchett goodness, I tell ya.

And did I mention that it’s a Susan book? Because it’s a Susan book! Susan Sto Helit (a school teacher and the granddaughter of Death) is one of my absolute favorite characters on the disc, but she only is featured in 3 books. So if you ask me any book with her in it is a kind of precious story.


‘Yes, lad?’

‘What is it you are trying to tell me?’

‘I’m sorry?’

‘I didn’t expect to become a...a sweeper! You’re Lu-Tze! I expected to be apprentice to...well, to the hero!’

‘You did?’ Lu-Tze scratched his head. ‘Oh, dear. Damn. Yes. I can see the problem. You should’ve said. Why didn’t you say? I don’t really do that sort of thing anymore.’

‘You don’t?’

‘All that playing with history, running about, unsettling, not really. I was never quite certain we should be doing it, to be honest. No, sweeping is good enough for me. There’s something...real about a nice clean floor.’

‘This is a test, isn’t it,’ said Lobsang coldly.

‘Oh, yes.’

‘I mean, I understand how it works. The master makes the pupil do all the menial jobs, and then it turns out that really the pupil is learning things of great value...and I don’t think I’m learning anything, really, except that people are pretty messy and inconsiderate.’

‘Not a bad lesson, all the same,’ said Lu-Tze. ‘Is it not written, ‘Hard work never did anybody any harm?’”

-pg. 99-100

@   169.   @

The Art of Ooo
by. Chris McDonnell

The official art book for the cartoon Adventure Time.

Holy crap, yall, I love this book. If you are an Adventure Time fan consider this a must read. Its got everything you could want in an Adventure Time art book. Its got interviews and production artwork and a look into the development of everything, and an in-depth look at the process for how everything gets made, and so much more!

Rebecca Sugar: It really felt like we were all trying to out-honesty each other at some point. At least I felt really challenged to do that. If you weren’t explaining your personal philosophy, or admitting some genuine fear that haunts your life, then it wouldn’t be interesting, and it definitely wouldn’t be funny.”


An American Lyric
by. Claudia Rankine

So I would say that I loved about 3/4ths of this book. It was great. It beautifully tackles the issue of race in America not from the usual political or economic or other such viewpoints, but from a really personal one. It really made me think about some things I hadnt considered before.

But theres this bit in the last fourth or so that got a little too poetic for me and I had a really hard time making sense of it and my inability to understand it just made me rather frustrated.

“Someone in the audience asks the man promoting his new book on humor what makes something funny. His answer is what you expect—context. After a pause he adds that if someone said something, like about someone, and you were with yours friends you would probably laugh, but if they said it out in public where black people could hear what was said, you might not, probably would not. Only then do you realize you are among ‘the others out in public’ and not among ‘friends.’”

-pg. 48


The Last Hero:
A Discworld Fable

written by. Terry Pratchett
Illustrated by. Paul Kidby 

Cohen the Barbarian has learned of the man who long ago was punished for stealing fire from the gods and has decided to do the right thing and give it back to them, by means of a very large bomb delivered to their doorstop. However, he has failed to note that such a powerful bomb set off at the gods’ home at the hub of the disc would result in a world-ending event. As Cohen races to bring justice to the gods, the rest of the world races to come up with a plan to stop him. And yet the only way to get to the hub before the barbarian would be to journey over the edge of the disc itself.

I love illustrations, but some books should never be illustrated. The Discworld books are definitely books that should never be illustrated. In fact in the earlier books Pratchett would always put a map in the front and the map was just the words “There are no maps. You cant map a sense of humor.” And, now that I think about it, thats one of the things that first made me fall in love with Terry Pratchett and these books. Its fun and wild and changing and never rooted too firmly to change, but at the same time that all just made it feel all the more real.

And just like some things cant be mapped, I feel some things shouldnt be illustrated. It nails down things that should be left to ones imagination. Especially when there have been no illustrations for the past 12 books.

But illustrations aside, what about the story? Well, the story is a bit thrown together. It kind of feels like 2 Discworld short stories cobbled together. Parts of it were really quite fun, but parts of it were...pretty out there.

“The place where the story happened was a world on the back of four elephants perched on the shell of a giant turtle. That’s the advantage of space. It’s big enough to hold practically anything, and so, eventually, it does.

People think that it is strange to have a turtle ten thousand miles long and an elephant more than two thousand miles tall, which just shoes that the human brain is ill-adapted for thinking and was probably originally designed for cooling the blood. It believes mere size is amazing.

There’s nothing amazing about size. Turtles are amazing, and elephants are quite astonishing. But the fact that there’s a big turtle is far less amazing than the fact that there is a turtle anywhere.”

-pg. 1

[GN]   173.   [GN]

Poorly Drawn Lines
by. Reza Farazmand

A collection of strips from the webcomic Poorly Drawn Lines.

This is a hard one to sum up for me. Generally I’ve gotta say that I probably wouldn’t invest in this book. While many of the strips are Really good, a number of them are a bit flat. And I wasn’t really a fan of any of the passages of text that were scattered throughout. So, you know, a bit of a mixed bag going on in here. But luckily for us we can just read it online and not have to worry at all!



‘What the hell is happening…’


-pg. 66

[GN]   174.   [GN]

Sex Criminals, vol. 1:
One Weird Trick

written by. Matt Fraction
art by. Chip Zdarsky

A woman who can stop time with her orgasms finally meets her match when she hooks up with a guy who turns out to have the same ability. But when their sexy good fun turns to crime they attract the attention of the sex police.

Wait...since when is there a sex police?

Theres been a lot of buzz about this one this year so I felt I should see what it was like. Overall its pretty enjoyable, in spite of the fact that most of the material  in it was something I don’t relate to.

But if, unlike me, you have an interest in sex you should check it out. Its got some fun characters and fun jokes, and is at its heart so fucking weird.

For her, sex literally makes the
world come to a standstill.

He hates his life, his job, and the special curse that makes him just like Suzie.

And for the first time in their lives they find
themselves alone, together.

So they do what any new young couple having
sex and freezing time might do:

-back cover

[GN]   175, 176*, 177, 178   [GN]

Hilda and the...

Midnight Giant
Bird Parade
Black Hound

by. Luke Pearson 

The stories of an adventurous young girl named Hilda and the mystical beings she has a knack for coming across.

Just an FYI that these are more than likely going to be showing up on my Best of the Year list. I had read Hilda and the Midnight Giant before (in fact I own it), but I only recently became aware that it was a series! Whats more each book wonderfully develops into the next, featuring actual plot development along the way. I mean, it would be so easy to take this set up and use it in the usual cartoon monster-of-the-day format. But things change, settings change. Its amazing.

I cant say enough nice things about this series. Its cute, it’s clever its fantastical, it has moral lessons without knocking you over the head with them, the characters are all so endearing, and the art is brilliant.

Do yourself a big favor and treat yourself to giving this series a shot.

“‘You slept well then?’

‘Well, the wind shook the tent all night…

It was pretty cold, wet...overall pretty traumatic...but…

Such is the life of the adventurer.’”

-Hilda and the Troll

[GN]   179.   [GN]

Human Body Theater
by. Maris Wicks

A human body stage show to give you an inside look at how your body works and what alls in there in the first place.

If you ask me any comic that can make cute character out of a testicle is deserving of our respect.

While perhaps too technical at times for a really young kid, the book does a really excellent job at giving an overview of the inner-workings of the human body. More importantly the impossibly cute illustrations make learning these things so much FUN.

“The MASSETER is the strongest muscle.
With all the muscles of the jaw working together, our molars (back teeth) can chomp down with a force of 200 pounds.

‘So when we chew, our molars are coming down on the food with the force of 20 bowling balls!

In the face there are about 40 muscles.

They work together to give us a whole lot of facial expressions.

The TONGUE is a muscle, too, and it never rests.’

Even as we sleep, the tongue pushes saliva to the back of the throat to be swallowed.

‘I can’t catch a break!’”



Empire of Imagination:
Gary Gygax and the Birth of Dungeons and Dragons

by. Michael Witwer

A biography of the creator of Dungeons & Dragons.

Let’s put it this way, consider yourself lucky if your biography (should one ever be written) ends up as positive as this one. Witwer is obviously a big fan and as such the biography is heavily skewed in Gygax’s favor. So much so that it was actually rather shocking at times, because they’d mention something out of nowhere, like that Gygax wasn’t doing cocaine anymore and I was sitting there going, "What? When the hell did he start!?"

I mean, the guy had 5 kids and they often didn’t have enough money for food and he would leave his wife to take care of them while he went and played boardgames every night of the week. I mean, what the fuck!? He played boardgames so much that his wife thought he was having an affair, because surely no married man with kids to take care of could possibly be believed to be playing boardgames that much. And even that moment Witwer plays off as comedic, when in fact it really paints quite a sad and damning portrait of the man. Despite Witwer’s best attempts to present him as something else, it was hard for me to not see him as the giant irresponsible manchild he seemed to be for most of his life.

But journalistic integrity aside, if you’re reading this, not for a hard-hitting biography, but for a look at the creation of Dungeons & Dragons, well, you’re in luck. Despite its flaws the book does provide a very interesting look into the creation of one of the most (possibly the most) culturally-impactful games ever created. From the gaming culture it stemmed from, to its inception, and all the way through its evolution.

So as a biography of D&D it’s really a very interesting read. As a biography of Gygax himself? Uhhhh, not so much.

“Not long after Guidon’s March 1971 release of Chainmail, a few members of the C&CS, led by statistician Leon Tucker and Michael Reese, would collaborate to publish a wargame they had been working on for a number of years, called Tactics. Gary’s contribution to the game included a combat system predicated on the use of a twenty-outcome random number generator, in this case a coffee can with twenty numbered poker chips inside. The group had felt that traditional six-sided dice and other common random number generators of the day were not sufficient to accurately represent realistic combat attack probabilities. With the coffee can approach, they could refine attack probabilities to 5 percent increments, which were better suited to simulate real-world combat outcomes, according to Tucker’s extensive review of World War II statistics.”



The Invisible Orientation:
An Introduction to Asexuality

by. Julie Sondra Decker

An introduction to the asexual orientation with sections for asexuals, non-asexuals, and everything in between.

As an asexual myself I was kind of curious about this one. As its very accurate title suggests, it’s not everyday that you see asexuality taking a center stage. And, frankly, people’s ignorance/misinformation about the orientation is one of the central difficulties asexuals have to deal with. Case in point: My computer is currently underlining the word “asexuals in red, because isn’t familiar with the word as a noun.

I mean, for a long, long time I just felt like a failure, because I didn’t know that asexuality was a thing, and thus I just thought I was a broken heterosexual. And even when I did know that asexuality was an option I thought it meant something different. So seeing a book like this in the market pleases me immensely.

(I mean, it would have been nice could I have read it years ago and saved myself a fair bit of personal anguish, but what can you do.)

All in all, it’s a really great source of information for anyone with questions about asexuality. (Also for everyone who thinks they know what asexuality means despite never having talked to an asexual or read anything about it, but just heard the term briefly mentioned from time to time from 3rd hand sources). It deftly clarifies and illuminates all aspects of the orientation as well as providing both asexuals and non-asexuals with the facts and discussion tools we need. 

That being said, do be warned that it’s definitely not a chatty pop-culture day-time talk show kind of a read. It’s more like what a class on human sexuality would assign as reading material (that is, if anyone taught anything about asexuality [which they don’t]). Which isn’t to scare you off by saying it’s wholly academic and unintelligible to the regular reader, but just to let you know that it does aim for accuracy over conversationality.

I think the best way to describe it would be as a reference aide. It’s made with the idea in mind that you’ll look at the index and find the sections and questions relevant to you. If you try to read it straight through (like I mistakenly did) it ends up feeling a bit like a textbook or a 190 page brochure.

“The common thread all asexual people have is that they don’t get sexually attracted to (or sexually inclined toward) other people. There are further subdivisions that describe the asexual experience in different ways, and sometimes they seem confusing outside asexual circles. All too often, asexual people hear ‘You can’t be asexual if you masturbate!’ or ‘You can’t be asexual if you have a boyfriend!’ or ‘What’s the point of saying you’re asexual if you have sex?’ So this section should help clarify how different types of asexual folks fit under the big asexual umbrella.”