Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Book List 2015: December

Here we are, folks! The end of the year. Well, the end of the year in terms of what I’ve read this past year that is. But whatever! 2015 was a shitty year for me in any case. So screw it!

December was an especially stressful month (in an already stressful year) and as such I wasn
t able to muster up the energy to finish many book-books. However, like usual, comics were always there to pick up the slack. And for that I say, “God bless them. Every one.”


 * = reread
{pb} = Picture Book
[GN] = Graphic Novel or Comic Anthology
poe  try = Poetry


Miss Felicity Beedle’s
The World of Poo

by. Terry Pratchett

A young boy goes to visit his grandmother in the big city of Ankh-Morpork where at he learns about all the wonderful world of shit.

While perhaps not the sort of thing you’re going to write home about, there’s still something rather endearing about a book that tries to teach you about the many practical and invaluable roles excrements play in our world. And Pratchett is 100% correct: Poop is important. We try to shame the very idea of it and for what reason? So embrace the wonders of dung!

...just, you know, put on some gloves first.

“As they say, what goes around comes around, although you don’t have to look at it as it floats past. But acting like a cat and believing that if you can’t see it, then it’s not there is no way for polite society to behave. Without muck, without dung, there would be no agriculture and without agriculture there would be no people worth talking about.”
-pg. viii-ix

[GN]   183.   [GN]

a love story

by. Philippa Rice

A heart-warmingly sweet collection of illustrations and comics depicting all the little moments that form Philippa Rice’s relationship with her boyfriend.

So many tales of romance focus almost exclusively on grand romantic gestures: admissions of love outside bedroom windows, speeches of undying love, the blatant ignoring of airport safety regulations, etc. But by and large those aren’t the things that make up a loving relationship. The real sweetness lies in all the little moments. The little acts of fun and sweetness, the comfortableness of being in their company. And these are the moments that Philippa Rice has captured so perfectly in these strips.

With an effortless honesty Soppy manages to be one of the most romantic books out there.

[GN]   184.   [GN]

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, vol.2:
Squirrel You Know It’s True

written by. Ryan North
art by. Erica Henderson

Doreen Green (aka Squirrel Girl) finds herself in a bit of a conundrum when a mysterious figure known as “Girl Squirrel” appears on the superhero scene and starts copying Doreen’s style (and catch phrases)! But do her feelings of ill will stem from her innate squirrel senses or just from professional jealousy?

Not quite as much fun as the first volume. However, I will freely admit that this is largely due to the fact that two new heroes are introduced in this volume, are given quite a bit of screen time, and I personally think they are both horrifically lame. Yet whenever they aren’t mucking things up, this comic continues to be extremely fun.

“‘Oh my gosh, can we please stop talking about abs?? Please let’s talk about literally anything else.’

‘Well, who do you think’s gonna rescue us?’

‘Oh, I don’t think: I know. She’s strong. She’s smart. She’s the Unbeatable Squirrel Girl.’


[GN]   185.   [GN]

Ms. Marvel, vol. 4:
Last Days

written by. G. Willow Wilson
art by. Adrian Alphona

Universes are colliding and the future doesn’t look too bright. With the rest of the world’s heroes preoccupied with the looming armageddon, it falls upon Kamala Kahn to help keep hope alive for the citizens of Jersey City.

I can’t really say too much about this volume without spoiling it, but I will say that it is AMAZING. It’s quite probably my favorite volume of the whole bunch. (Which is saying something, because I love them all.)

There are just so many brilliant moments in this storyline and the stakes are bigger than ever. If you haven’t gotten into this series yet you need to do yourself a favor and jump on in. Because it’s only getting better as it goes on.

“‘I know you want to help them. You’re like--you’re like me.

You don’t want to pick and choose. You want to save everybody.

But you can’t save everybody. Not without damaging yourself.’

‘It hurts so m-much...’

‘I know, kiddo.

I know.’”

*   186.   *

The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents

by. Terry Pratchett

When a group of rats and con artist cat wind up gaining sentience they quickly find that they can never go back to how their lives used to be. In order to raise money to start a new life they recruit a simple-minded musician and devise a brilliant pied-piper con. But their trick turns against them when they happen upon a strange town. A town where no other rats can be found and something much more sinister than vermin lurks beneath its foundations.

I don’t know how, but I had forgotten just how brilliant this one is. This is Pratchett’s first foray into the YA scene since he started writing the Discworld series and my gosh is it ever good.

The amazing things about Pratchett (okay, one of the amazing things) is that he is a true master at sneaking brilliantly philosophical quandaries into his writing while being completely natural about it. With so many authors they insert a bit of philosophy into their with the same tact as a back-alley colonoscopy. It would have been so easy to do this story as a typical “Rats of N.I.M.H.” kind of thing. But instead he goes deeper. These animals are new to sentience and he uses that nascent self-awareness to ask some really fundamental questions about what it means to be alive. What’s more, these ideas aren’t just thrown in Matrix-style to appear deep. Instead they represent natural progressions for the characters and serve to make them all the more real.

And I know I’m making this sound like some high-brow thing, but it’s not! It’s just a testament to Pratchett’s skill. This could have so easily been a basic story. Fun, but ultimately forgettable. But it isn’t. It’s a fun and youthful story that silently fills your head with ideas and questions and new perspectives.

“‘She’s gone in the head if you ask me. She’s one of those people like...actors. You know. Acting all the time. Not living in the real world at all. Like it’s all a big story. Dangerous Beans is a bit like that. Highly dangerous person, in my opinion.’

‘He’s a very kind and thoughtful rat!’

    ‘Ah, yes, but the trouble is, see, that he thinks everyone else is like him. People like that are bad news, kid. And our lady friend, she thinks life works like a fairy tale.’

    ‘Well, that’s harmless, isn’t it?’ asked Keith.

    ‘Yeah, but in fairy tales, when someone dies...it’s just a word.’”
-pg. 100-101

[GN]   187.   [GN]

Fun Home:
A Family Tragicomic

by. Alison Bechdel

A memoir focusing on Alison Bechdel’s childhood and her relationship with her father.

While the book serves as a thoughtful and honest look at this time period in her life, the whole thing often felt rather clinicalas if it were more of a treatise than a memoir. It frequently carries an air of academic introspection rather than of personal story-telling. At times it feels rather like she has made a study of her own life and this her presentation of her findings.

Which isn’t to say that there’s anything wrong with that per se, but it certainly came as a bit of surprise.

“He used his skillful artifice not to make things, but to make things appear to be what they were not.

He appeared to be an ideal husband and father, for example.

But would an ideal husband and father have sex with teenage boys?”
-pg 16-17

poe   188.   try


by. Mary Oliver

A collection of poetry from Mary Oliver that revolves around the theme of love and the celebration thereof.

If you like poems about nature Mary Oliver is one of the best in the biz. And for good reason. However, when she’s not talking about nature? Umm...rather hit or miss. But that being said there’s still some great poems in here. I just wouldn’t recommend rushing out and buying the hardcover or anything. Especially since it only starts poems on the right-side pages.  The poems are generally quite short so that means there’s quite a bit of blank space happening in this tome.

Except for the Body

Except for the body
of someone you love,
including all its expressions
in privacy and in public,

trees, I think,
are the most beautiful
forms on the earth.

Though, admittedly,
if this were a contest,
the trees would come in
an extremely distant second.”

*   189.   *

Lord of the Flies

by. William Golding

When a group of children get stranded on an island they are forced to choose sides in an inner battle between man-made order and natural chaos.

Wow. I hadn’t read this thing in a loooong time. And you know what? It’s pretty darn good. But at the same time I’m kind of annoyed with it; it comes so close to being truly great! The only thing stopping it is that the writing-style is entirely too vague at times.

Case in point: Golding often doesn’t identify the speakers. Instead he relies on you to assume that the speaker is the last child who mentioned, regardless of context. If I had been thinking ahead I would have pulled an example of what I mean,  but it goes something like this:

Agent J interrupts Agent K causing K to lose his temper and spray alien slime all over J.

“Why do you always do this to me!?”

So, pop quiz! Who would you assume delivered the line? Usually in this book it would be J because he is the last person mentioned. But do you see how incredibly confusing that would get during scenes with lots of dialogue/characters?

Vagueries aside though it’s easy to see why this is a classic piece of literature. Its themes and characters are all first rate. Like any great piece of literature it leaves you asking questions and makes you take a hard look at the world around you.

“Which is better—to have rules and agree, or to hunt and kill?”

*   190-193., 196.   *

volumes: 1-5

by. Katsuhiro Otomo

In 1982 a terrifying explosion ripped Tokyo into pieces and triggered WWIII. It’s now 2019 and the city has been rebuilt into Neo-Tokyo. But when a local gang of teenage bikers go for a joy ride through government property they inadvertently set in a motion a course of events that will once again bring the city to its knees. And it’s up to Shoutarou Kaneda, the gang’s leader, to set things right.

So, sure, I didn’t read that many novels this month, but I did read 5/6ths of Akira! And, for the record, I would have read the 6th one too if it hadn’t been checked out at the library and if the library didn’t inexplicably have only a single copy of each volume.

WTF, Library?!

Akira is such an important comic! Not only was it the first manga to be officially translated and released in the USA in its entirety, but it was also a key player in creating the American manga/anime boom of the 90s. Long story short: it is kind of a big deal.

But more importantly is that it’s a brilliant piece of storytelling.

I know the prospect of a 2,100+ page comic sounds daunting, but at no point in this story does it ever drag. It is a testament to both Otomo’s storytelling and artistic prowess that this thing is one of the most addictively page-turning stories I’ve ever read. Case in point: I got one of my roommates to start reading it too and he went to bed the other night expecting to read a little bit before bed and then accidentally read the entire 300 page volume I had lent him.

This is the level of page-turning excitement I’m talking about here.

When most people think about Akira they think about the movie, and I’ll get more into that when I finish off the last volume, but let me just say this: the story of the movie version does not hold a candle to the comic. It’s a visually stunning piece of animation and is actually directed by Otomo himself, but the story is grossly outmatched.

If you love comics or action or Neo-Tokyo Sci-fi or stories about cataclysmic events or any combination thereof: you need to give Akira a try. Seriously. It’s so good.

“Hey, Tetsuo! Let’s show these guys how it’s done!”

{pb}   194.   {pb}

Welcome to the Greatest Show on Earth

by. Adrienne Barman

An animal almanac for kids’ that celebrates the amazing diversity of the animal kingdom. Full of interesting facts, fun illustrations, and grouped in kid-friendly animal subsections.

I got this one for my nephew for Christmas. I’m not sure what he’ll think of it, but I sure think it’s pretty fun. While older kids would probably be more interested in a real encyclopedia of animals with lots of facts and real pictures, I feel like this one hits a nice spot for the younger kids. It does a really great job at not only making you interested in the animals, but also in showing how animals can be grouped in different ways. The complexities of Mammal and Amphibian and so on are a bit complicated for the youngin’s so I love how in this one they group them under categories such as “The Brainboxes,” “The Champion Breath-holders,” and “The Poisonous.”

Not gonna lie, I learned some things while reading this book too. For instance: There is a creature called a Giant Chinese Salamander and it can grow to be nearly 6ft long. A friggin’ 6ft long salamander! (seriously, what are you not googling that this very second! What the heck, Mother Nature?! Why does this exist?)

{pb}   195.   {pb}

Secrets of the Apple Tree:
A Shine-a-Light Book

by. Carron Brown

A book that lets you use a flashlight to illuminate the things hiding beneath the surface of an apple tree.

& I got this one for my niece!

Once again, I don’t know if she had as much fun with this one as I did, but...probably not! Because I had a blast. The premise behind this is so simple and yet so friggin’ genius!

It works like this:

One page one side of the paper has a drawing. The opposite side is all black with the image that will shine through done in white. THUS when you shine a light behind the picture the white parts let light through, the black parts don’t and viola! You’ve just unlocked a secret image on the picture.

3 reasons why this is so awesome to me:

#1: That is a ridiculously clever idea.
#2: It creates a situation wherein kids not only get to read, but also get to play with flashlights.
#3: It teaches you a little something about nature.

“A tree is bursting with life.

If you look closely at its trunk,
branches, leaves and fruit,
you will spot animals,
plants and fungi living there.

Shine a torch behind the page,
or hold it up to the light to reveal
what is hidden in and around the
tree. Discover a small world
of great surprises.”

[GN]   197.   [GN]

Batgirl, vol.1:
Batgirl of Burnside

written by. Cameron Stewart & Brenden Fletcher
art by. Babs Tarr

Batgirl Barbara Gordon has moved to a hip suburb of Gotham in order to pursue an advanced degree. But she finds herself in a dangerous situation when someone begins leaking private information about her online. Who could possibly have learned all her secrets? And how are they distributing it right under her nose?

This is probably the most hipster millenial-y thing I've ever read. And I don't mean that in a good way.

Everyone is in this thing is in a band or a tech start-up. They’re all shopping at vintage clothing stores, making quips about fixed-gear bicycles, instagramming everything they do, so much more. It’s like Batman had a baby with Portlandia.

“‘You know what? If you hate me so much, why don’t you pack up all your crap and get out of my life.’

‘Seriously? Fine. Deal. Have all the fun you want. I’m done.’”

{pb}   198.   {pb}

Goodnight Darth Vader

by. Jeffrey Brown

Darth Vader tries his best to get his kids to go to sleep by telling them about how everyone one else in the galaxy needs to rest too.

While some of the couplets were rather weak (Rhyming “Chewie” with “Villany?” Really? That works in your head?) , overall this book is pretty fun. I like how it delves into the entire Star Wars canon and doesn't just simply rely on the mainstream characters.

“All through the night, Jabba’s place is aroar
The party’s too loud for the sleepy rancor”

[GN]   199.   [GN]

Gotham Academy, vol.1:
Welcome to Gotham Academy

Written by. Becky Cloonan & Brenden Fletcher
Art by. Karl Kerschl, with Mingjue Helen Chen

After a summer break and a mysterious incident that changed everything, Olive Silverlock is ready for things to get back to normal and another school year at Gotham Academy. But when you go to a school where ghostly hauntings and secret cults are the norm? School’s anything but normal.

I probably wouldn’t recommend this one to someone who wasn’t already a Batman fan, because I kind of get the feeling that anyone else might end up a tad lost. But all in all it’s a pretty fun book. And in no small part due to the fact that Olive and Maps are just delightful. Honestly, they don’t even need all these fantastical mysteries! It just gets in the way of Olive and Maps hanging out and getting into trouble.

Im going to end up reading volume 2 and it is entirely because of those two characters.

P.S. It’s hard to explain, but I really like the way in which this comic portrays the Batman in a less than flattering light.

“‘Olive! You were, like, the best ever! You should have seen her, Kyle.

She literally swooped down like Batman!’

‘No. Nothing like Batman. ’”

[GN]   200.   [GN]

Everything We Miss

by. Luke Pearson

An exploration of the final moments of a failing relationship and the unseen moments of darkness that are taking place around it.

Since I like his Hilda books so much I figured I’d check out what else Luke Pearson had done. As you may have guessed from the summary: it’s quite a different sort of story.

The only real negative thing I can say is that it’s too short. It was OK as it was, but I think if he had given himself a little more room to stretch into it would have made everything that much better.

“A shadowy figure slips its fingers up through the man’s body, through the back of his head and into his mouth, gripping his molars and his tongue to craft his words

...and she doesn’t see a thing.

‘You’re so fucking boring these days’”

[GN]   201.   [GN]

One-Punch Man

written by. One
art by. Yusuke Murata

Saitama has achieved ultimate power and can defeat any enemy with just one punch. But what’s a guy who got into the hero business for fun supposed to do when the hardest part is fighting evil is having to clean your gloves afterwards.

I’ve been hearing a number of people mention this series, but when I learned that one of my all-time favorite comic artists (Yusuke Murata) was doing the artwork I knew I had to check it out posthaste.

If you’re a fan of superhero comics—especially shonen-style stuff—then you definitely need to give this comic a try. It is a hilarious piece of satire. But more importantly, it’s a loving piece of satire. Despite being inherently ridiculous it actually somehow manages to make a hero who can defeat anyone with a single punch quite compelling.


‘Wait! Don’t kill him now!!’



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