Holy pants what a big catch-up

Alrighty, I have not been very disciplined about blogging what I’ve been reading at home, which is a shame because it’s all been good.  Quick round-up.

43. Incognegro written by Mat Johnson, art by Warren Pleece (Vertigo/DC, 2008).  I had been wanting to read this for awhile, since I saw ads for it in the weekly books, and then when I was visiting New Paltz, I saw it at their awesome comic shop and snagged it.  It was just as good as I had hoped, maybe better.  Well-drawn characters (both literally and figuratively), very well-paced, and neither Johnson’s writing nor Pleece’s art shies away from the nasty, lethal racism of the 1930s Deep South.  When I finished it, I closed it, and then opened it right back up to read it again.  This book has amazing potential for a long life, because aside from just being a great read, it would be great for classes (race studies, American history, or graphic novel writing).

44. Sucks to Be Me by Kimberly Pauley (Mirrorstone, September 2008).  Picked this up at work, read a few pages, had to take it home–this is one of those books that just jumps right into the story.  The premise sounds a little fluffy; it’s about a girl whose parents are vampires, which she’s not supposed to know, and when the Vampire Council finds out she does, they basically give her a month (including vampire classes) to decide if she wants to be one too.  Mina is a great protagonist, so good that I wish Pauley hadn’t bothered with the journal/list/IM convo format and just told the story straight.  Some hilarious scenes–teen vampires are about the same as normal teens, it seems.  But Mina’s dilemma is actually a pretty difficult one, and she struggles with it for most of the book, as did I, once I started thinking about what she was being forced to choose.  I really wasn’t sure how the book would end until I got there, and found it very satisfying when I got there.

45. All We Ever Wanted Was Everything by Janelle Brown (Spiegel & Grau/RH, late May 2008).  Three main characters, none of whom I particularly liked because I was frustrated with them, but on the other hand I was up until 2am finishing the book because I was hoping that things would end better for them.  First: Mom Janice, having a great day on the day her husband’s company’s IPO is making them multi-millionaires–until he divorces her via bike messenger.  Second: Margaret, Janice’s older daughter, who finds herself in incredible debt because her feminist/anti-consumerist magazine has fallen apart and her boyfriend has left her (just as he’s becoming famous).  Third: Lizzie, Janice’s younger daughter, who loses a lot of weight, finds herself wanted by boys, and gives each of them what they want without thinking about what she wants, not realizing the consequences of that until later.  As everything falls down around their ears, I couldn’t stop reading because I just wanted to stop cringing already.  And sure enough, the end was satisfying without being cloying.  This might make a good book club book for a younger book group (under 50).

46. Little Things: A Memoir in Slices written and illustrated by Jeffrey Brown (Touchstone/S&S, 2008).  Brown’s Cat Getting Out of a Bag: And Other Observations is one of my favorite comics (and also would make the perfect gift for any cat person you know).  So I was pleased when this came out.  It truly is in slices; several seemingly disconnected stories that take place over a couple years.  I wasn’t completely blown away by it, but I did like it.

47. Awkward and Definition: The High School Comic Chronicles of Ariel Schrag written and illustrated by Ariel Schrag (Touchstone/S&S, 2008).  Another autobiographical comic–why are these more interesting as comics?  Anyway, the back describes it thusly: “an unflinching look at what it’s like being a teenage girl in America.”  This was definitely true in the mid-90s, when the book was written; things have changed since then (no cell phones in this book, or dealing with awkward IM conversations with someone you have a crush on, or so on).  But in many of the ways that matter, they haven’t changed at all, so I think this book would still appeal to HS students.  And it will definitely appeal to anybody who was a mid-90s teen.  It’s great in the larger context of autobiographical comics, and even more impressive when you consider that Schrag was still in high school when she created it.

48. The Patron Saint of Butterflies by Cecilia Galante (Bloomsbury, just came out).  This has gotten a lot of buzz from YA fans, and I can see why–it’s quite good.  Eerily relevant in light of the whole Yearning for Zion scariness, as it’s about two girls living at a religious commune and then running away.  The book alternates between their viewpoints, which is useful because while Honey is rebellious, Agnes longs to become a saint and loves the commune.  When Agnes’ grandmother steals them and Agnes’ brother away after he is badly hurt (and after hearing about the abuse that happens at the commune) they are thrown into a world they don’t understand.  Galante does a great job of writing what our world must look like to people who haven’t experienced it (similar to how well Walter Kirn does this in Mission to America), as well as exploring the complexities of what Agnes and Honey want in their lives, and what they fear.

49. The Bush Tragedy by Jacob Weisberg (RH, 2008).  As you can see from the title, Weisberg obviously doesn’t think much of Bush’s tenure in office.  But then, according to polling, neither does most of the country.  However, rather than approaching it from policy decisions, Weisberg comes at the analysis with two frames.  Firstly, he uses Shakespeare (primarily Henry IV Parts 1 and 2, and Henry V).  Secondly, he looks at 5 relationships of Bush’s, and this is where his genius comes out.  As he says in the introduction, “This book isn’t intended as an indictment.  It is an attempt at explanation,” and that is exactly what his approach provides (xix).  In addition to his complex relationship with both sides of his family, Weisberg examines Bush’s relationship with Cheney, Rove, Rumsfeld, and Rice.  The George W. who exists on the page at the end of the book is, truly, a figure out of Shakespearean tragedy, manipulated by several people who used his blind spots against him, but ultimately, not blameless for his actions, either.  It will freak you out, since we’re talking about the leader of the free world, but it’s compelling reading because it’s so well-crafted.

50. These Things Ain’t Gonna Smoke Themselves: A Love Hate Love Hate Love Letter to a Very Bad Habit written and illustrated by Emily Flake (Bloomsbury, 2008).  Hahahahahaha, this book is hilarious!  Not sure how funny it is to people who have never smoked, but smokers and former smokers, rest assured–this book is for you.  And, in fact, it did help a few non-smokers I know to understand why people smoke in the first place, and then keep smoking.  Funny as the day is long and unflinching, and 100% awesome.  A short little book that I have probably read 10 times since I bought it.  Love it!  Hard to sell, I guess, because many people hide their love of smoking, but if you find one, thrust this book in their hands and guarantee them that they’ll love it.

Whew, that was a lot of books to catch up on!

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2 comments so far

  1. kimpauley on

    Hi 🙂 Glad you liked my book. I especially like “channeling” Mina — she’s a fun character to write. BTW, I met your Mom back some years ago at the Suncoast Writer’s Conference and she’s just awesome! Haven’t emailed her in a while though…please tell her “hey” from me next time you see her! And #2 BTW…I *love* The Phantom Tollbooth! Never tried taking an actual bite of it though…

  2. […] by Ariel Schrag (Touchstone, 2008).  Graphic novel.  I really liked this, even more than Awkward and Definition.  Schrag’s art gets incredible, especially the dream sequences, and her manner of […]


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