Thursday, November 26, 2015

Best of 2015: Third Quarter

I recently realized I forgot to highlight my favourite books from the third quarter. Better late than never, right?

In the order I read them, my 4.5-star books from July to September are:

Cover of Half Wild, featuring a whisp of green smoke that forms itself into the silhouette of a howling wolf. The title appears vertically over top the image.
HALF WILD by Sally Green

Intense characterization + nasty magic + bisexual love triangle = very happy Memory (with a side of anguish, because bad shit goes down).

I reviewed this one (and its predecessor, HALF BAD) in some detail, so I’ll direct you there.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Holiday Gift Guide: Non-Superhero Comics

Last week I shared my top five Marvel holiday gift picks, with an emphasis on superheroes because that’s what Marvel does best. This week I want to talk about some non-Marvel comics that may interest the less superheroically inclined people on your list.

Cover of Jem and the Holograms Volume One, featuring a number of young women of various races singing and playing instruments.

JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS VOLUME ONE: SHOWTIME [Amazon | The Book Depository | my review], written by Kelly Thompson and drawn by Sophie Campbell, is my top pick for music-lovers of all ages. Jerrica Benton and her sisters are determined to take their band, the Holograms, right to the top--with a little help from the spectacularly flamboyant AI their father developed. The comic is unabashedly woman-centric, with a strong focus on friendship and the most adorable, body-positive character designs in the entire world. Younger readers and newcomers will love it as much as the people who remember the original Jem from their own childhoods.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Murchie Plus Books: November 15th to 21st

The premise: I love my dog. I love books. I bring the two together by photographing my dog with every book I read, barring the comics I get in single issue form.

The photos: go live on Instagram as I edit them and appear here in digest form every Sunday, with descriptive alt tags and additional commentary.

Not pictured: I read THOR #8, so I can stop avoiding identity-centric spoilers! Which would be more of a relief if I hadn't stumbled across one a mere week before the comic hit Marvel Unlimited. Sigh.

I carried on with K.J. Parker's MEMORY, too. I thought I might finish it, but it's back in a boring segment so I'm gonna stick to the same old scheme: 100 pages after every other book I finish.

And I listened to the latest episode of TREMONTAINE, which continues to delight me.

A fuzzy grey poodle, Murchie, sprawls on his side on a red blanket. His front paws are stretched before him and his right ear is raised. Immediately in front of his nose is a trade paperback copy of The Likeness. The title appears in black against a worn blue background with black edges.

I said I'd read THE LIKENESS next, and lo! I did.

Tana French is so good at writing intense friendships, y'all. She excels at showing why they work in the first place, and what causes them to crumble from the inside out. Y'all know I'm a sucker for fictional friendships, so I gobbled this down as quickly as ever I could (which, alas, wasn't as quickly as I would've liked).

I loved it, but in a shocking deviation from the societal norm I think I loved IN THE WOODS a bit more. Weird, right?

And this is a peculiar thing to focus on, but it makes me happy that Lexie hates onions because of their mouth feel (the same reason I hate 'em), and that her friends respect this by only having oniony foods once a week. Y'all don't even know the pain I experience whenever someone assumes "I don't eat onions" means "I'm willing to pick the onions out and/or eat them to be polite." NO. It means exactly what it says and it's rude to serve someone a meal that contains something they've specifically told you they don't eat.

Don't do that. Ever.

Anyways, I look forward to reading more of French's books once I'm out from under la TBR.

Oh! Random thing! Until last week, I had no idea that Rafe-pronounced-Ralph was short for Raphael. I thought it was just one of those weird Anglo Saxon pronunciation things. I have a fake brother named Raphael (long story), so maybe I'll start calling him Rafe for short. Except I'll pronounce it like it's spelled, because that sounds cooler than Ralph.

Also, I totally used to think there were three Fiennes brothers: Rafe, Ralph, and Joseph. I was shocked when I learned Rafe and Ralph are THE SAME PERSON (who really does have a nose, no matter what your TV screen may tell you). How very like a Tana French novel.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

My Year With Marvel: Holiday Gift Guide, Part I

The holidays are coming up, and you’ve got a ton of people to buy gifts for, and you want to give at least a few of them comics because comics are awesome.

The trouble is, which comics do you choose?

While I can’t actually decide for you, I'm primed and ready to tell you what I’d pick my own self. We’ll talk about some Marvel trades today, with books by other publishers on tap for next week and some Marvel merchandise suggestions to follow soon after.

Cover of Squirrel Girl volume one, featuring the title character--a white girl with short, chestnut brown hair--imagining herself carried on the shoulders of many of Marvel's premiere superheroes, including Captain Marvel, Thor, Captain America, the Hulk, Iron Man, Black Widow, and Hawkeye. A brown squirrel with a pink bow around her neck looks on.

THE UNBEATABLE SQUIRREL GIRL VOLUME ONE: SQUIRREL POWER [Amazon | The Book Depository], written by Ryan North and drawn by Erica Henderson, is my top pick. It’s an all-ages comic, which makes it great for every reader who appreciates humour and heart alongside their superheroics. Doreen Green’s a fighter through and through, but she’s as liable to use compassion and good old fashioned psychology to subdue the bad guys as she is to punch them with her superstrength. (She has the proportional strength and speed of a squirrel, you know.) Everyone needs her in their life.

And hey, if you're feeling extra generous, SQUIRREL GIRL VOLUME TWO: SQUIRREL YOU KNOW IT'S TRUE [Amazon | The Book Depository] drops on December 8th, in plenty of time for the end of Hanukkah or for all late-December holidays.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Review: The Queen by Tiffany Reisz

Cover of The Queen by Tiffany Reisz. A woman's purple-tinted, silk-draped legs snake across the bottom of the solid black background, with the author's name and the title directly above them in white.
Review copy provided by the publisher via NetGalley.

You’ve read THE SIREN, yes? The first book in Tiffany Reisz’s Original sinners series?

If not, you’ll do best to make for your local library or bookstore and grab yourself a copy well before you approach THE QUEEN. This particular book is the eighth and final volume in the series, and you’ll experience 98% less confusion if you've already read the seven that go before it.

I know, I know. It’s a lot of homework, but it’s good homework and you’ll have a blast with it--unless you object to kinky, character-driven erotica with a strong religious component, in which case you’re probably best off reading something else.

If sexy times and religious discussion sounds awesome to you, though, you’ve gotta get your hands on this series. Let me explain the appeal of this final volume, sans spoilers for the earlier books.

THE QUEEN [Amazon | The Book Depository | Kobo] is a direct sequel to THE VIRGIN and picks up shortly after the earlier book’s finale. It employs the same structure as the rest of the four-volume White Years subseries: a present-day framing story surrounds Nora’s recollections of what occurred in the years immediately before THE SIREN. The framing story takes place at the wedding we learned about in THE VIRGIN, while the core story picks up immediately after Nora’s return to Manhattan and details how she transforms herself from a well-known submissive into the Red Queen of the Underworld.

And if that makes no sense to you whatsoever, please refer to paragraphs one through three of this review.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Murchie Plus Books: November 8th to 14th

The premise: I love my dog. I love books. I bring the two together by photographing my dog with everything I read, barring the comics I get in single issue form.

The photos: go live on Instagram as I edit them and appear here in digest form every Sunday, with additional commentary and descriptive alt tags.

Not pictured: a new issue of THE UNBEATABLE SQUIRREL GIRL hit Marvel Unlimited and promptly became my Monday lunchtime reading. It continues to be the most perfect superhero comic in the history of superhero comics. And I've read a fuckton of superhero comics, so I know what I'm talking about.

Otherwise, my comics-reading time has dried up due to my end-of-year push to knock stuff off la TBR. I'm so close to killing it dead, y'all. I've only got twenty-five books left on there, and only twelve of those are priority reads that won't breed additions. (The others are omnibi, late-in-series books that require rereads, or series openers that may inspire me to rush out and borrow the rest.) I aim to finish the twelve by the end of the year, at the very least.

So, yeah. I didn't read any other comics, but I did listen to the third episode of TREMONTAINE. It continues to delight me.

A fuzzy grey poodle, Murchie, lays on a fuzzy white pillow. He wears a blue and white striped t-shirt and has his nose raised in the air. Immediately in front of him is a stack of seven volume of Fruits Basket with only their pale blue spines showing.

When I do find a little comics time in my schedule, it goes to FRUITS BASKET. You recall how someone kept borrowing the next volumes I needed and holding onto them for weeks past the due date? Well, I swooped in and preemptively requested the rest of the series right out from under them. Now I'm gonna hunker down and finish it once and for all, then return each of the books before my designated borrowing period ends.

I read a few volumes last week and forgot to photograph Murchie with them before I returned them to the library yesterday. Oops. Here he is with the rest of the series in neatly stacked form.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Review: The Sandman: Overture by Neil Gaiman and J.H. Williams III et al

Cover of Sandman: Overture, featuring a person dressed in dark robes and a long-nosed helm. They stand in a field of burning red flowers, an orange planet visible against a starry red and dark blue sky behind them.
Review copy provided by the publisher via NetGalley.

Fair warning: I’m about to use the phrase "religious experience."

I know, I know. It’s overblown and hyperbolic and it’ll prevent you from ever taking me seriously.

Worst of all, I mean it without a shred of irony or exaggeration. THE SANDMAN: OVERTURE [Amazon | The Book Depository | comiXology] was, for me, a religious experience from the second it was announced until the moment I read the last page of the deluxe edition’s extensive back matter.

This is partly because stories are at the very core of my religion, for reasons I'm never comfortable elaborating on in public. Whether we're talking sacred or secular, I'm forever fascinated with the way life-defining stories shift according to who’s doing the telling--and according to what comes to light, and what stays hidden from whom, as the story unfolds.

THE SANDMAN shares my preoccupation. It never loses its bone deep awareness of stories as a vital, ever-shifting, highly subjective force.

"Religious experience" is also apt because because SANDMAN was the first of what I think of as the comics; the ones that reach into my very soul because something in them calls to something in me. The world is never the same after I’ve discovered one of the comics. It hasn’t been the same since I discovered SANDMAN in the pages of a massive coffee table book about DC Comics, or since I scraped together $19.21--a hefty amount to Teenage Me--and ordered a steeply discounted1 copy of PRELUDES & NOCTURNES from Amazon’s fledgling Canadian operation.

I’ve returned to SANDMAN over and over in the decade and a half since then, and I can’t wait to reread it again with OVERTURE under my belt. Because this final/first volume casts everything that came before (or after) it in a new light.