Blogger tried to make things easier but now I just have ugly code and it takes me longer. So thanks? (a books post)


077) A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs, finished September 19

This is a slight book and an easy read, but it had the misfortune of being my car book when all carring came to a close.

It's fine. I can see why people like it. But I feel genre storytelling has moved so far past this era of pulp that its this-happened-then-this-happened-ness can get a bit dull, the marysueness of our hero can get eyerolling (not only is he stronger and faster, he's also a finer linguist, psychic, animal trainer, and lover), and the nature of the magic is as scifi as an Edward Eager novel.

Don't get me wrong. I enjoyed it. I'm glad I read it. But I doubt I'll read another. And I don't care enough to engage in any of the things whose aging might be much more interesting to discuss like tropes of races and sex, which are a bit more complicated than they seem but not that much more so.

Anyway. Barsoom.

Now I've read it and I can continue my own Mars stories without embarrassment. 

well over a year

078) Echo by Terry Moore, finished September 21
You may recall me marveling over the plotting in Rachel Rising a couple days ago. How, I wondered, did Moore keep so many balls in the air and have them all* fall so satisfactorily after so many hundreds of pages?

I'm sorry to say he was not quite as successful with Echo. It's still an enjoyable book (and, counted like Rachel rather than as this omnibus, six volumes rather than seven). I think what happened is he started a ticking clock and things accelerated so quickly that there just wasn't time to make everything work. For instance, Julie's kink was set up as A Big Deal and Part of the Solution and ... it wasn't either. I'm not sure Moore ever even figured out what her kink even was. And the the Scary Assassin Guy (and Ivy's youth) (and most of the plot) is lost in a reasonably well set up deus ex machina (see Stephen King's On Writing for a good explanation of what makes such a deus not cheating) (I really need to reread that book...) but not all elements of that great final moment have been properly set up and so it doesn't quite work. And although I enjoyed the Cain stuff and it does help for the future combining of Echo (why this title, anyway?) and Rachel, ultimately it doesn't really fit into this harder scifi world.

I suppose you should know this. This is superheroey science fiction. And it's good. Way better than average. But reading it right on the heels of Rachel Rising, it was sure to disappoint. Alas, alas.
about five days

079) Bone by Jeff Smith, finished September 21
The baby's latest long comic is truly long---a 1300-page epic I last finished reading to the boys nine years and twenty-three days ago. And it's so great.
If you haven't read Bone, it's high fantasy, but it has a hint of something like Narnia as the Bones, Pogo-like creatures, have lost their way and, unable to get back to Boneville, fall into a story with dragons and speaking bugs and lost princesses and racing cows and stupid, stupid rat creatures.

It's a delight to me as an adult and it's a delight to even small children (though a couple moments are pretty frightening and may require some crisis management).

Seriously. What are you waiting for?

(ps: I recommend the blackandwhite edition over the color, but I've always been a traditionalist)

about a month and five days
 078) The Resisters by Gish Jen, finished September 22

Let me tell you about this book.
It is a near-future dystopia where basically Amazon's algorithms run AutoAmerica. A girl from the Surplus side of society has a knack for baseball and might be able to pitch her way into a revolution.
If that sounds like a book tailor-made for a reader like myself you are absolutely right. It certainly does sound like that.
What if I added on that Ann Patchett blurbed it was a stone-cold masterpiece?
Or that I heard a terrific longform interview with Jen on some NPR show about the book?

Well, all the more reason to expect me to love this book.
(I did not love this book.)
In fact, I spent most of the book struggling to keep reading it. It ... it's not good.
The problems it has with point of view are maddening. Gish knows baseball reasonably well, but some of what happens is borderline nonsensical and her publisher should have found an editor who knows the sport. (It's just little moments, but casually mentioning a no-big-deal-triple-play in passing is the sort of things that doesn't happen). Some of its witticism (eg, character names) aren't that witty and frankly are more confusing than anything else. It's like some of the characters came out of a mideevel allegory composed by someone with a fragile grasp on the rules.
The last fiftyish pages get better---the unexpected turn into dementia is surprisingly affecting---but the sudden departure from the slavish p-o-v rules established earlier threw me off and the ending is written as if it should have great emotional weight, but it barely even holds together.
It's a novel with craft and soul, but the two really aren't on talking terms.
And I really thought I would like it.

about three weeks
079) Knight's Castle by Edward Eager, finished September 26
I finished book one and son three immediately provided book two. And I think it may have been even better. The juxtaposition of yeomanly speech as a 1950s kid might imagine it and the kids' speech themselves---not to mention the heightened danger and the silly traits of kidplay. There's just such an honest view of childhood as lived by children in these books.
I don't know if I'll read more since son three has already given me something else to read, but now I'm really curious how the books will connect. Book two here stars children of the children who started in book one, but I doubt that trend will continue or book seven won't start till halfway through the next century.
Special shoutout to the illustrator. Although his covers have been replaced, the interiors are still terrific. They have a certain calm whimsy which perfectly matches the text.

week or two
080) Drama by Raina Telgemeier, finished approximately September 28
I read this three years ago and quite liked it. I wasn't planning to read it to the baby, but she got fed up with storyless Charlie Brown and one of the brothers, remembering she likes Sisters, handed us this. So there we went.

I was right. It was way over her head. Middle-school politics are not for three-year-old. That said, I think she might also be entering a stage where she wants to ask questions and understand things. I suppose this was good for that---for receiving answers, that is. Not necessarily for understanding the world much better.

three or four or five noncontiguous days

081) Leaving Megalopolis by Gail Simone and J. Calafiore, finished October 2

Like Echo, I read this as part of the Covid Comics Extravaganza, in which I am reading all the comics I own but have not yet read.

I got this book the summer of 2019 (or possibly 2018) as part of the local library's summer reading program. The boys and I were late showing up to the library and the offerings were pretty picked over by the time we got there. Of the prose and comics and after much agony, I chose this because of Simone's reputation, even though I haven't been totally impressed by her in the past.

I liked this one less, I'm afraid.

Leaving Megalopolis is a parody of dark superhero comics. If you're looking at this image and thinking to yourself it doesn't look funny, you're rights. It is a jokeless parody of dark superhero comics.

The superhero characters of this parody are paper thin and the people are similarly flat with occasional melodrama for flavor.

Here's the plot:

A few hours prior to the book's beginning, some eldritch thing came out of a hole in the ground here in the world's safest, most superheroed city. And that thing turned all the heroes into villains, utterly disgusted with the humans they once protected, and with a jones to kill.

We follow some normal people trying to escape the city and they bump into mad heroes and lordoftheflies groups of gentrifiers, etc etc.

The writing is not the only problem here. To pick one obvious example. one character, who is short, is described as and treated like a child by the other characters. But, shortness asides, she is the shape of a fullgrown woman. We even get some sideboob to emphasize the point when she is first introduced.

Anyway, it's not hard to see what the story's trying to do (and it stinks of ambition) but it's just not very good. It's just not.

This was crowdsourced so I'm wondering if the editing was weaker...?

Anyway, this volume ends with behind-the-scenes, making-of stuff and that stuff made me feel bad about not liking it. They worked really hard on this!


three or four days

082) Don't Hassle Me with Your Sighs, Chuck by Charles M. Schulz, finished October 2

After finishing Bone, the first next book I attempted to sell to the three-year-old was this Peanuts collection. She likes Charlie Brown (specifically, the holiday specials). But the book didn't really speak to her. She didn't get the jokes and there wasn't much plot.

And although I'm traditionally a big booster of Peanuts, and although this book shares some strips with a collection I had and read and reread as a kid, I was a bit underwhelmed myself.

I was a bit sympathetic, for the first time, to the Snoopy haters. And although the Seventies are, by many opinions, the high point, I wasn't feeling it.

Maybe this was just because I was reading it with someone who was not terribly impressed? Dunno.

But the lesson I take is that it's time for me to start rereading The Complete Peanuts.

about two weeks

083) The Hard Tomorrow by Eleanor Davis, finished October 2

This 2019 book brings us to the year 2022. Zuckerberg is president, the U.S. engages in chemical warfare at home and abroad, megaphones are made illegal---

Honestly, reading it, it's hard to believe this book came out last year. It's near-future but it feels now. Some things are impossible (Zuck can't be president in two years and polar bears should last more than two years, for instance), but the story feels incredibly timely. Davis is a prophet.

I've enjoyed, to some measure, two of her other books (Art, Happy) but this one might stick with me longer. The story of a woman who lives in a truck out in the woods with her man where they intend to build a house. Professionally, she provides in-home care to an elderly woman and the rest of her time is spent in activism, fighting against the violence of the American government.

The relationships are complex and meaningful. The people are natural progressions of people around today. It's a bit accelerated, but this is a 2022 that could, largely, arrive on schedule.

Let's do what we can to keep that from happening.

But the book is not a downer. She an activist because she believes in the future and for all the ugliness around her, she lives for the future too.


084) Smile by Raina Telgemeier, finished October 8

Having read Sisters first, I assumed this books would be similarly constrained in time. but no! This covers a big chunk of adolescence, takes her from sixth grade through half of high school. And in terms of theme, it's probably more like Drama although she certainly does have some favorite concerns.

I can see why it's so popular and we do owe it for creating the genre. And now she's a gazillionaire, so it was all worth it!

about four days


books from the recent and distant past

books one through five
001) Titiana in Yellow by Dayna Patterson, finished January 1
002) The Tree at the Center by Kathryn Knight Sonntag, finished January 5
003) After Earth by Michael Lavers, finished January 12
004) Monstress, Volume One: Awakening by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda, finished January 15
005) The Last Hot Time by John M. Ford, finished January 17

books six through eleven
006) The Marriage of the Moon and the Field by Sunni Brown Wilkinson, finished January 25
007) My Parents Married on a Dare by Carlfred Broderick, finished January 26
008) The Garden of Enid: Adventures of a Weird Mormon Girl (volume one) by Scott Hales, finished January 26
009) The Garden of Enid: Adventures of a Weird Mormon Girl (volume two) by Scott Hales, finished January 27
010) Solid State by Coulton / Fraction / Monteys, finished February 9
011) Into the Sun: Poems Revised, Rearranged, and New by Colin B. Douglas, finished February 16

books twelve through sixteen
012) Wag the Dog: A Study on Film and Reality in the Digital Age by Eleftheria Thanouli, finished February 17
013) Flaming Carrot Omnibus: Volume 1 by Bob Burden, finished February 17
014) The Electric State by Simon Stålenhag, finished February 22
015) The October Faction Vol. 2 by Steve Niles and Damien Worm, finished February 24
016) Minus by Lisa Naffziger, finished February 26

books seventeen through twenty-two
017) Primates: The Fearless Science of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Biruté Galdikas by Jim Ottaviani and Maris Wicks, finished February 29
018) Calexit by Matteo Pizzolo | Amancay Nahuelpan | Tyler Boss, finished March 7
019) Emma by Jane Austen, finished March 8
020) Animal Man by Grant Morrison, Book One, by Morrison and team, finished March 14
021) The Chuckling Whatsit by Richard Sala, finished March 16
022) Gloriana by Kevin Huizenga, finished March 18

books twenty-three through twenty-seven
023) Dick Tracy: Dead or Alive by an Allred-led team, finished March 20
024) Homespun and Angel Feathers by Darlene Young, finished March 25
025) Jinchalo by Matthew Forsythe, finished March 28
026) Lost Dogs by AUTHOR, finished March 28
027) The Pearl of Greatest Price: Mormonism's Most Controversial Scripture by Terryl Givens with Brian M. Hauglid, finished March 29

books twenty-eight through thirty-two
028) If Mother Braids a Waterfall by Dayna Patterson, finished April 2
029) Witchy Kingdom by D.J. Butler, finished April 11
030) Prayers in Bath by Luisa Perkins, finished April 14
031) On a Sunbeam by Tillie Walden, finished April 22
032) Missile Mouse: The Star Crusher by Jake Parker, finished April 22

books thirty-three through thirty-seven
033) Irreversible Things by Lisa Van Orman Hadley, finished April 27
034) Pillar of Light: Joseph Smith's First Vision by Andrew Knaupp and Sal Velluto, finished May 3
035) Hermana by Becca McCulloch, finished May 13*

036) Best American Comics 2017 by Ben Katchor, finished May 19
037) "Q" is for Quarry by Sue Grafton, finished May 22

books thirty-eight through forty-two
038) Draft No. 4* by John McPhee, finished May 22
039) Salt by Susan Elizabeth Howe, finished May 25
040) Endless Night by Agatha Christie, finished June 5
041) A Swiftly Tilting Planet by Madeleine L'Engle, finished June 8
042) Caldera Ridge by Jack Harrell, finished June 10

books forty-three through forty-seven
043) God's Man by Lynd Ward, finished June 13
044) Zot! 1987–1991 by Scott McCloud, finished June 17
045) Big Fish by Daniel Wallace, finished June 20
046) Skeleton Key by Anthony Horowitz, finished June 24
047) Exhalation by Ted Chiang, finished June 28

books forty-eight through fifty-one
048) iZOMBIE: Dead to the World by Chris Roberson & Michael Allred (et al), finished July 4
049) iZOMBIE: uVAMPIRE by Chris Roberson & Michael Allred (et al), finished July 4
050) iZOMBIE: Six Feet Under & Rising by Chris Roberson & Michael Allred (et al), finished July 6
051) iZOMBIE: Repossession by Chris Roberson & Michael Allred (et al), finished July 6

books fifty-two through fifty-six
052) Remember the Revolution! by James Goldberg, finished July 14
053) Future Day Saints by Matt Page, finished July 19
054) Animal Man: The Hunt by Jeff Lemire & Travel Foreman, finished July 22
055) Superman: Before Truth by Gene Luen Yank & John Romita Jr. & Klaus Janson & Dean White, finished July 27
056) Castle Waiting: The Lucky Road by Linda Medley, finished August 1

books fifty-eight through sixty-two
057) Alive: New and Selected Poems by Elizabeth Willis, finished August 4
058) Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson, finished ~ August 7
059) Beyond Internet: Understanding the New Rules of Language by Gretchen McCulllch, finished August 9
060) Sisters by Raina Telgemeier, finished August 11
061) Marble Season by Gilbert Hernandez, finished August 15
062) Frogcatchers by Jeff Lemire, finished August 17

books fifty-eight through sixty-two
063) Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell, finished August 21
064) Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay, finished August 24
065) by William, Barrows, et al., finished August 28
Martian Manhunter Vol. 2: The Red Rising by William, Barrows, et al., finished August 28

books seventy-seven through eighty-four
077) A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs, finished September 19
078) Echo by Terry Moore, finished September 21
079) Bone by Jeff Smith, finished September 21
080) Drama by Raina Telgemeier, finished approximately September 28
081) Leaving Megalopolis by Gail Simone and J. Calafiore, finished October 2
082) Don't Hassle Me with Your Sighs, Chuck by Charles M. Schulz, finished October 2
083) The Hard Tomorrow by Eleanor Davis, finished October 2
084) Smile by Raina Telgemeier, finished October 8

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