It's less like I've had a crush on her since 1993 and more like we're good friends who found other people but you can imagine another world where things worked out differently, you know?


(and other stories)


103) Long Live the Pumpkin Queen by Shea Ernshaw, finished September 10

1) There's some weird stuff about pacing that I didn't like and even though the author thanks her editor for cleaning up plot holes, there are some other flaws that are peculiar. Just one example, at one point Sally has no bones; at two later points she has fabric bones. That sort of thing.

2) Sally's visits to the other holiday lands were well imagined though a bit hard to get enthused about. Part of that may be blamed on the demands of the plot, but those demands tie back into the pacing issue and so, ultimately, the place-to-place-to-place nature of the overlong central section makes a certain amount of sense, but trying to keep it trim left the visits cold while still feeling like of step of plot lasting waaay too long.

3) I'm not sure how I heard about this, but I put it on hold before I realized it wasn't a comic. I got it anyway with the idea it might be a good book to read to the 5yrold as this was her first favorite movie. But we're in the middle of The Little Princess and I/she didn't want to interrupt it. And since it's in demand and can't be renewed, I decided to just pick it up myself.

4) The beginning of the book was incredibly compelling. Even though I love Sally and was excited for her to have her own adventure, it ends up what I really wanted was some sexy sexy Sally/Jack scenes and this book delivers. The writing is G-rated but the passion is intense and very hot. One expects that Shea Ernshaw has some, ah, extended scenes in some scenes she cut before submission. Because this relationship is emotionally deep and the flashes of physicality that made it into this novel for children hint at something equally rich and assured. Anyway. If you've been shipping since the early Nineties, this book might be for you. At least Certain Parts.

5) The book is about Sally development from the uncertain child of abuse into the powerful and certain Pumpkin Queen. This is so-so. I wanted it to be stronger, but even as Sally is daring and brave and out on adventures, she doesn't seem to grow that much. She's just sort of stronger by the end. I wish this angle had been the real focus of developing in the editing process.

6) One thing that bugged me was this apparently inescapable theme of Disney products (I've already complained about this re Star Wars and Marvel) of important people requiring a certain geneology. Ugh.

7) Speaking of, it was startling when a real-life character appeared in the book—someone who had committer her final newsworthy act on the day before. (This link is a spoiler.)

8) This novel is totally a corporate product but you know what? Thank you, Disney. Now I want the ten-episode version. I think Henry Selick just became available.

about a week

104) Bug! The Adventures of Forager by a trio of Allreds, finished September 22

The weirder corners of the DC universe are so so weird. I've never been deep into stuff like Kirbyesque cosmology and it ain't easy to just dip into and know what's going on. And I did feel plenty lost here as well, but the wit of Lee and the beauty and vim of Mike and Laura make it a fun journey regardless. Plus, with the Allreds doing it, you get lots of cultural eastereggs (including those of the Mormon variety) and bits of wisdom—I especially liked the bit about building with your hands rather than your mind):

And, as long as we're in the neighborhood:

Anyway, do NOT ask me to explain any of this but I can testify that there are plenty of cool ideas and, I reckon, if you're steeped in New Gods mythology, you'll get more out of it than I did.

Also, I should mention that although the cover makes no mention of it, there's a short thing in the back about a guy named Midnight by a different artistic team that looks cool but has a tricky to follow panel-path, is crushed into pages that are really too small for the artistic decisions made, and is either missing a chapter or crushed the entire climactic sequence between panels.
That's a lot of complaints about a book that's jampacked with cool stuff, but I guess what I'm saying is that if you've never read comics before and are looking for a place to start, this ain't it. Experts only!

under a week

105) The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel, finished September 24

So I just love her writing. It's not anything I can articulate, but just start reading her and you are immediately given the confidence that you are in the company of someone who knows what she's doing.

I loved Station Eleven, her big breakout book, and I intended to read this as soon as it came out in 2020, but Lady Steed was a tad underwhelmed so it ended up back at the library before I had a chance. When Sea of Tranquility hit earlier this year, I immediately put it on hold, but then I heard that it's connected to Glass Hotel (and, lesserly, to Station Eleven) and that it's a richer experience for having read Glass Hotel first. So back on hold went Glass Hotel.

And I loved it. I can see how, immediately following a read of Station Eleven, it might disappoint by not being big in the same ways, but with a bit of separation, it is just as impressive. So many interwoven stories, but it feels natural and organic and not workshopped and deliberated. Even its more flashy move like a switch into first-person plural and simply right.

The novel is deeply noneuclidean, by which I mean it is filled with parallel lines constantly intersecting with each other. Everything reflects everything else. And it's interesting to see how some people write about Glass Hotel as a novel of the multiverse while others see it as supernatural (or simple madness). I say,

What I like most is that every character feels fully realized. Even if they never get to be a pov character, even if we haven't been in their pov for a hundred pages. They live. And that means all the choices, crisis or not, large or small, matter. Because they matter to the characters. Now, most of them are large, at least within a character's life (ponzi schemes, mortage crises, artistic failures, dead mothers, drug addictions, suicides), but even small moments matter which is why the disasters matter as well. These people are complicated and contradictory and therefore we can hear them breathe.

maybe two weeks

106) Fangs by Sarah Andersen, finished October 2

A vampire/werewolf love story from the creator of Sarah Scribbles, just with more intentionally attractive art. What's not to like?

one short evening

107) The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North, finished October 3

I heard of this book in an AML review that did a Mormon reading of the novel. I reached out to the review's author as it seemed to me he might also be interested in a similar book I admire, Replay.

I was surprised when he wrote me back, telling me he had read it on my recommendation and asking if I had read Harry August. I had not. My library didn't have it and I wasn't motivated enough to get it some other way. But now I felt obligated! So I interlibraried it and now I have read it.

Here's the concept:

Harry lives and then he dies. Then he is born again at the same moment and under the same circumstances as his first birth. He lives, dies, back to the beginning. He carries all his memories with him from previous lives.

As conceit, solid. It might seem hard to build plot-driving stakes around, but North solves that problem. The last hundred pages are filled with moments of emotional depth and excitement, but I think what I will be left with is a sense of eternity's tedium and wondering just what Harry will do next.

Without progress, what good is eternity?

two weeks

108) Brindille by Frédéric Brrémaud and Federico Bertolucci, finished October 5

It's a fine little fantasy, but it does reveal the advantage a work like Bone has that takes its sweet, sweet time over a thousand pages.

Another problem is the translation. For instance, in one panel a character is clearly reacting to some kind of a joke (probably a pun) and that is retained, but no effort was made to insert a funny where it belonged. Just a literal translation. And the the books title is Brindille but the main character is called Twig. So unless you know French, you may not make the connection between her, the title, and another character named Sir Brindille. All of which the book assumes are plain to you. So . . . shoddy work.

one night

109) Shelterbelts by Jonathan Dyck, finished date

1. My copy is apparently not the one that is normal. Looking around, it appears the book's chapters had been published in more than one form. Perhaps individually, then in volumes, then as a whole. My copy is the full thing but it looks like volume one as seen here:

2. Off and on for a few years I spent some time looking for a smaller branch of Christianity with a thriving literature all it's own ala the Latter-day Saints. I tried real hard to find a Jehovah's Witnesses literature to no avail. One Adventist writer and no more. Ends up I should have been looking at the Mennonites. This is a comic or strong literary merit. Plus, one of the characters is the librarian in her mostly Mennonite town and spends most of the budget on Mennonite romance novels because that's what the people want. Jackpot.

3. The art is simple, in the sense of clean lines and dot eyes, the only colors black and white. But Dyck makes strong use of where he spreads and does not spread his ink. He's creative with his perspectives and layouts. All the simplicity is put to work in the creation of depth. Read more about that here. Or screw theory and just check out some samples here and here.

Anyway, I found this book moving and fascinating, both accessible and alien, and thoroughly admirable.

this week


Previously . . . . :

Previous Posts

001) U Is for Undertow by Sue Grafton, finished January 4
002) Far Sector by N.K. Jemisin et al, finished January 7
003) Joseph Smith and the Mormons by Noah Van Sciver, finished January 7
004) The Blank Wall by Elisabeth Sanxay Holding, finished January 11
005) The Art of Perspective by Christopher Castellani, finished January 11
006) Bad Kitty Goes on Vacation by Nick Bruel, finished January 12
007) Remina by Junji Ito, finished January 15
008) The Tea Dragon Society by Katie O'Neill, finished January 15
009) The Tea Dragon Festival here by Katie O'Neill, finished January 15
010) A Hat Full of Sky by Terry Pratchett, finished January 18
011) Diana: Princess of the Amazons by Shannon & Dean Hale and Victoria Ying, finished January 26

012) Just Julie's Fine by Theric Jepson, finished January 28
013) The Art of Description by Mark Doty, finished January 28
014) Green Lantern: Legacy by Minh Lê and Andie Tong, finished February 5
015) Serious Concerns by Wendy Cope, finished January 9
016) The Art of Mystery by Maud Casey, finished February 11
017) The Art of Bible Translation by Robert Alter, finished February 13
018) No Longer Human by Junji Ito, finished February 15

019) Zatanna and the House of Secrets by Matthew Cody and Yoshi Yoshitani, finished Febraury 17
020) Fuzz by Mary Roach, finished February 19
021) Deserter: Junji Ito Story Collection by Junji Ito, finished February 25
022) You May Already Be a Winner by Ann Dee Ellis, finished March 4
023) Audience-ology by Kevin Goetz, finished March 4
024) The Writing Life by Annie Dillard, finished March 7

025) Wintersmith by Terry Pratchett, finished March 8
026) The Croquet Player by H. G. Wells, finished March 11
027) Lost States: True Stories of Texlahoma, Transylvania, and Other States That Never Made It by Michael J. Trinklein, finished March 12
028) Nightwing: Leaping into the Light by Bruno Redondo and Tom Taylor, finished March 13
029) Batman: The Court of Owls by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo and Jonathan Glapion, finished date
030) Invisible Ink: My Mother's Secret Love Affair with a Famous Cartoonist by author, finished date
031) Ghosts of Vader's Castle by a slew of folks, finished March 15
032) The Flintstones Volume 1 by Mark Russell and Steve Pugh, finished March 16
033) The Flintstones Volume 2 by Mark Russell and Steve Pugh, finished March 16
034) The Jetsons by Palmiotti/Brito/Sinclair, finished March 16
035) Exit Stage Left: The Snagglepuss Chronicles by Mark Russell and Mike Feehan, finished March 18
036) Ballad for Sophie by Filipe Melo and Juan Cavia, finished March 19

You tell me whether it's garbage-in or not

037) Bride of the Far Side by Gary Larson, finished March 23
038) Batman: Night of the Owls by the entire DC bullpen, finished March 23
039) The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin, finished March 25
040) The Pocket Book of Ogden Nash, finished March 25
041) Slaugherhouse-Five or the Children's Crusade: a Duty Dance with Death by Kurt Vonnegut / Ryan North / Albert Monteys, finished March 28
042) The Fox and the Star by Coralie Bickford-Smith, finished March 28
043) Jem by Frederik Pohl, finished March 31
044) The Mundane Adventures of Dishman by John MacLeod, finished March 31
045) Because Sometimes You Just Gotta Draw a Cover with Your Left Hand by Stephan Pastis, finished April 4

Books: extralong edition

046) Patsy Walker, A.K.A. Hellcat! Vol. 1: Hooked On A Feline by Leth/Williams/Allegri, finished April 9
047) The Hatred of Poetry by Ben Lerner, finished April 11
048) Weird Al: The Book by Nathan Rabin with Al Yankovic, finished April 11
049) My Year of Flops by Nathan Rabin, finished April 16
050) The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennet, finished April 19
051) Beast of Burden: Occupied Territory by Dorkin & Dyer & Dewey & Piekos, finished April 16
052) Building a Better Life by Stealing Office Supplies: Dogbert's Big Book of Business by Scott Adams, finished April 22
053) On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century by Timothy Snyder, finished April 27
054) Salt Magic by Hope Larson and Rebecca Mock, finished May 5
055) Star Wars Adventures: The Weapon of a Jedi, finished May 6
056) Hemingway in Paradise and Other Mormon Poems by Scott Hales, finished May 8
057) Romeo and Juliet: The War by a team assembled by Stan Lee, finished May 10
058) The Dark Horse Book of the Dead edited by Scott Allie, finished May 14
059) A Little Lower than the Angels by Virginia Sorensen, finished May 15

060) Irredeemable by Mark Waid, et al., finished May 20
061) Stanslaw Lev's The Seventh Voyage by Jon J Muth, finished May 23
062) Sir Gawain and the Green Knight translated by Simon Armitage, finished May 28
063) Heike's Void by Stephen L. Peck, finished May 30

064) Night Weather by JS Absher, finished June 2
065) Will Eisner Reader, finished June 2
066) Pen Pals by Aaron Cometbus, finished June 4
067) I Shall Wear Midnight by Terry Pratchett, finished June 6
069) Pluto: Urusawa × Tezuka 001 by Naoki Urasawa et al, finished June 16
070) The Gadget War by Betsy Duffey, finished June 16

071) Sensational Wonder Woman, finished June 22
072) Ain't Burned All the Bright by Jason Reynolds and Jason Griffin, finished June 27
073) 5 Very Good Reasons to Punch a Dolphin in the Mouth (And Other Useful Guides) by The Oatmeal, finished June 29
074) Socks by Beverly Cleary, finished June 29
075) The Ultimates Volume 1: Super-Human by Millar/Hitch/Currie, finished June 30
076) In China with Green Day by Aaron Cometbus, finished July 4

077) V is for Vengeance by Sue Grafton, finished July 7
078) Spin by John Bennion, finished July 10
079) The Complete Cartoons of The New Yorker edited by Robert Mankoff, finished July 11
080) The Shepherd's Crown by Terry Pratchett, finished July 23
081) W is for Wasted by Sue Grafton, finished July 25
082) How About Never—Is Never Good for You? by Bob Mankoff, finished July 28

083) Subtract: The Untapped Science of Less by Leidy Klotz, finished July 29
084) Ape and Essence by Aldous Huxley, finished July 30
085) Urban Legendz by Paul Downs / Nick Bruno / Michael Yates, finished July 30
086) The Best Film You've Never Seen by Robert K. Elder, finished August 1
087) It's a Good Life if You Don't Weaken by Seth, finished August 4
088) Spencer Kimball's Record Collection: Essays on Mormon Music by Michael Hicks, finished August 7

089) The Last Man by Mary Shelley, finished August 11
090) Funny Business by Revlio, finished August 13
091) The Sopratos by Stephan Pastis, finished August 15
092) Real Friends by Shannon Hale and LeUyen Pham, finished August 16
093) Best Friends by Shannon Hale and LeUyen Pham, finished August 16
094) Friends Forever by Shannon Hale and LeUyen Pham, finished August 16
095) The Drowned World by J.G. Ballard, finished August 20

096) One Trick Pony by Nathan Hale, finished August 20
097) My Darling from the Lions by Rachel Long, finished August 22
098) Chivalry by Neil Gaiman and Colleen Doran, finished August 23
099) Chouette by Claire Oshetsky, finished August 25
100) Weiner Dog Art by Gary Larson, finished August 26
101) A Bestiary of Booksellers by Aaron Cometbus, finished September 2
102) Slaughterhouse-Five, or. the Children's Crusade: A Duty-Dance with Death by Kurt Vonnegut, finished September 9

final posts in this series from
  2007 = 2008 = 2009 = 2010 = 2011 = 2012 = 2013
2014 = 2015 = 2016 = 2017 = 2018 = 2019 = 2020 = 2021

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