Book Flight: Graphic Novels

I aim to tantalize your minds and eyeballs with some of the most creative story art out there. These series either have a recent release or one coming soon.

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Vol.7: Apr.2017

Saga by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples

You have never seen such creatively grotesque beings as spawned by Vaughan’s imagination. To me, he is the creative graphic genius of our time. Stunning art alone does not make the series; the characters are richly complex and the plot is layered with different points of view. Volume 7 is coming in early April. (adult, fantasy)

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Vol. 2: Feb. 2017

 

Demon by Jason Shiga

Here we have Jimmy Yee, a suicidal, self-absorbed asshole who tries to kill himself and becomes immortal instead. This turn of events shatters his lethargy and forces him to engage his demented creativity to escape imprisonment. Maximum gross, pulpy violence ensues. The dedication to Volume 1 reads. “To my wife, Alina, who begged me not to dedicate this book to her.”  Volume 2 was released this month. (adult, satire, pulp)

jacket_wytchesWytches by Scott Snyder and Jock

A must-read for horror fans, Wytches immediately creates a mood of bone-chilling evil. The terror slowly builds as you make one horrific discovery after another in a spooky town whose citizens have exchanged their conscience for survival. Volume 2 was expected in 2016. In interviews, Snyder and Jock have talked about working on it so I expect a publication date to be announced soon. (adult, horror)

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Vol. 2: June 2017

 

Monstress by Marjorie Liu and Sana Tekeda

The world of Monstress will strip you of any notion that femininity equals weakness. Brilliant manga-influenced art meets complex adventure in a world of magic, sex, and doom. Vol. 1 came out last July and Vol. 2 comes in June. (adult, older young adult, fantasy)

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Vol. 1: July 2016

The Vision by Tom King, Gabriel Walta, and Michael Walsh

The Vision wants to live a normal family life in the suburbs, and you’d better think twice about threatening his family because he won’t think twice about stopping you. Widely lauded as “unexpected”, this reimagining of Marvel’s The Vision, is humor, art, and dark suspense all rolled into one.  Volume 2 published Dec. 2016.

 

 

Book Review: Hide by Matthew Griffin

 

blog_hideHide may be the most poignant rendering of a lifelong relationship that I’ve ever read. The narrative is deceptively mundane as it details the daily lives of two elderly men who have been partners for 50 years. Like any old married couple, they know each other inside and out and have their domestic roles. Frank cleans and gardens, Wendell cooks and shops. In his eighties, Frank is breaking down mentally and physically and Wendell must take on the role of caregiver, not uncommon in a long-term relationship. Plenty of couples take care of each other in old age either because they can’t afford help or don’t want a stranger around. Although they can afford it, Wendell knows Frank would never hear of anyone setting foot in their home. He is intensely private about his relationship with Wendell, to the point of obsession. Frank’s fear highlights the profound impact of 1950’s homophobia on the psyche of gay men. Frank is vigilant about acting straight and hiding the fact that he lives with another man. The couple has no friends, they don’t go out together, they live a mile from their nearest neighbor, and Wendell details how Frank checks for gaps in the trees and plants more to hide ever more effectively. Wendell doesn’t seem like someone who feels shame for being gay. Initially, he knew the danger was real, but I didn’t get the sense he thought he was doing anything wrong. Regardless, he and Frank made profound sacrifices to get to this point of negotiating their end-of-life difficulties. Wendell’s steadfastness took my breath away. Exasperating as Frank gets, Wendell deals with everything that comes with tender loving care in his heart even as he scolds and fusses. He cares for him without question even when it’s difficult to the point of terrible hardship. When Frank’s dementia takes a tough turn, Wendell sinks into despair, marking the days by the pill organizer. Desperate for help, he hires a lawn service, and this of all things shocks Frank into lucidity by triggering his fear of being found out and separated from his partner. They wind up talking about what they gave up to be together. For example, Frank broke off contact with his family forever, he worked manual labor, and he cleaned up after Wendell (it sounds like Wendell was a real slob). Wendell is distressed to hear Frank talk about how he wanted children and a teaching job. It simply wasn’t possible to have Wendell and those things so he gave them up. Along with Wendell, the reader wonders and worries that Frank might be holding resentment, but only until he says, “I was just so scared…all the time, that they would take you away from me.” Wendell is reassured. Frank never stopped worrying about losing him. His obsessive vigilance wasn’t to protect himself from jail or social censure. He was simply terrified of losing his true love so much so that even the perceived threat snapped him out of dementia.

Did Frank and Wendell truly believe they were deviants who deserved a “less than” life? They seem to accept it without question. To me this is desperately sad. I got the sense that Frank felt that having love and passion and belonging meant he was getting away with something illegal and that it could rightfully be taken away from him at any moment. When society changed, Frank couldn’t relax his guard enough to come out and live openly although Wendell would have. Even if he could have come out publicly, I wonder if Frank still would have worried how outside influences might alter a love that had only existed in secret, in a sort of bubble. After all, if you know you are everything to someone, how can you be less than that?

In a way, Hide shows how living without builds character. That it is okay in the end and the deprivation is not intolerable, but adds flavor and depth to a partnership. If Frank had decided to turn his back on Wendell to marry a woman and have the “normal” life that part of him desired, what would have happened? One big passion traded for a lifetime of small joys from friends, children, teaching, gardening, etc. It doesn’t sound terrible, except Frank would have been giving up the chance to be known and loved for who he is. And really, what could be more important than being seen and loved through and through exactly as we are?

Book Flight: Read to Me

I got into audio books in a big way when a wireless headset freed me from that awful tangle of cord. The delicate combination of story, narrator, and listener makes or breaks the audio experience. Skill, interpretation, imagination, and bias of these individuals must mesh well-a tall order.

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My current favorite audio book pairing is Gerard Doyle reading Adrian McKinty’s Detective Inspector Sean Duffy series. I lucked out in that this entire series was available on Hoopla, my library’s digital audio download app that never requires waiting on hold for titles. If you see it in the Hoopla catalog, it’s available immediately with your library card. This meant I was able to keep myself in a Sean Duffy badboy/loverboy daze for weeks. Doyle’s dreamy Irish brogue plus McKinty’s writing melted me into puddles. I tried listening to other Adrian McKinty novels narrated by Doyle, then a book by another author narrated by Doyle but I gave up early on those. This is just one of those rare perfect matches for me. 

I had a regrettable experience with People of the Book by Pulitzer Prize winner Geraldine Brooks. The imagined history of an ancient illuminated manuscript had all the elements to flow, weave, and transport. Alas, I had a hard time sticking with the audio because of the accents of narrator Edwina Wren. The Australian accent of Hannah was natural and pleasing, but the attempt to create other believable accents, especially Eastern European ones, drove me to distraction. It was such a complex story to tell in one person’s voice and I wound up disappointed. Maybe an additional narrator with a broad range would have helped. Even though the story packed my suitcase and paid for my ticket, the reading was a bumpy flight next to the bathroom.

Others of my favorite book/narrator pairings:

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfeld, narrated by Bianca Amato and Jill Tanner

The Inspector Armand Gamache series by Louise Penny, books 1-10 narrated by Ralph Cosham (R.I.P.)

Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl written and narrated by Carrie Brownstein

The Boys in the Boat by Daniel Brown, narrated by Edward Hermann

A Chance in the World written and narrated by Steve Pemberton

One more tidbit: If tempo’s an issue, today’s downloadable audio books include a feature to allow you to speed up or slow down playback by increments until you are most comfortable.

Now I’m off to do housework while I listen to The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware, narrated by Imogen Church.

~Librarian Robin

 

Book Flight: Missing Molly

Struggling to brush away the static feels like I’m trying to part the red sea with a toothpick lately. Too much loss. It’s painful to open myself wide enough for long enough to leak words about a friend I miss so terribly. Molly: fellow boymom, book lover, understanding friend, foodie, smartass, intellectual, silly dork. Me: less smart, more dorky…but loved by my friend anyway. 

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 Molly seemed to employ a lot preventative maintenance for her mental well-being. When her piercing self-awareness detected a problem, she pulled out her toolbox to tinker away the squeaks and rattles. I took notes. When she found a tool that worked especially well, she used it even if she sort of hated it (ex. running). I noticed how she created a motivating environment for herself around running like the hardcore running partners she chose, the positive body image feedback she gave herself, the Run Like a Mother book she read, and talking about the mental health boost running gave her. I squirreled this away in my brain. “Note to self: This is how you make positive changes-cleverly block all your exits!”

blog_tenderOn our first Dining Out Month date, I remember sitting at St. Jack’s eating these colossal pork rinds and how Molly let them melt on her tongue with her eyes closed. Then we hung out on her front stoop with a bottle of wine people watching in her SE Portland hood. Smiling, she told me about the miniature fairy garden in an old man’s yard, “He kinda fits the profile for a creep, but he’s not. I think he’s really just a creative and special man.” Molly’s appetite for reading about food almost matched the call of her sparkling taste buds. She knew about the best secret food blogs and best food writers. Our bookclub read Tender at the Bone upon Molly’s suggestion.  This memoir tells of Ruth Reichl‘s discovery of good food despite and indirectly because of her bipolar mother.

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I mostly saw Molly at bookclub. Listening to that mind in high gear, Wow! What an absorbing experience. Absorbing. As in I arrived a dried out homemom sponge and left with my shoes squishing.  As PhD-from-Stanford-educated as Molly was, she surely did enjoy her chick lit, especially British chick lit, and especially Jilly Cooper. I inherited this one from her. All I can say is I’m super chuffed to read a book described as “dashing” and “tempestuous” in Molly’s honor!blog_micro.jpg

One of the final half-dozen or so books Molly read was Microserfs by Douglas Coupland, and she giggled as she talked about the absurdity of programmers so obsessed they would eat “flat food” while they worked (i.e. only food that could be passed under a door). I love this book because it made my friend laugh and forget she had cancer for a while.

The last gift Molly gave me was the gift of new friends. She included me in a special beach getaway a few weeks before she died. I met her sister and her best friends and got to cook them all puffy pancakes for breakfast. Molly let me sit by her and rub her feet for a spell. We played Cards Against Humanity and colored and such. I made sure to tell Molly what it meant to me before I left. That was the last time I saw her. She hugged me and said she wished I could stay longer.

Right back at ya, friend.

Finding Mr. Burroughs

It was the weirdest thing.

I checked out the book This is How by Augusten Burroughs from my library on a whim because I saw it in a list and the subtitle made me smile. This was especially noteworthy at the time because I hadn’t felt like smiling much around then. Right on the cover, the book promised to be a proven aid in overcoming things like shyness, grief, and decrepitude which sounded quite practical. Also, the promise of learning most anything gives me a special delicious feeling. Yes, despite it all, I remain life’s eager student. When a library book makes me smile and gives me a delicious feeling, well then, I just pick the fucker up because it’s a book, not a brain transplant. Not a drug, not a man, not a doughnut, not a plane ticket. It doesn’t cost money, I have room for it at home, I don’t have to rearrange my life to find time for it. It’s a clear win-win that is good for seven minutes or so of brightness; the time is takes from the smile to seeing it sitting next to me in the car. 

A day or two later when I was about kneedeep in This is How, my husband and I went across town to deliver something important (more on this in a later post) and then wound up at Rose City Food Park, a cluster of food trucks in SE Portland’s Hollywood district. We played cribbage, ate heartily, and enjoyed a couple of Boneyard IPAs while I rattled on about whatever was going through my head, which was mostly my friend Molly, the beautiful spring weather, and the insight in this book by Augusten Burroughs I was fascinated with. I said I wanted to buy it so I could highlight passages like, “…screw everybody else. You’re not a bottle of Valium.” and then read it over and over again. As a result, my husband suggested we swing by Powell’s City of Books after he finished handing my ass to me in cards. Powell’s almost always sounds like a good idea to me even though I rarely actually buy books for myself there; usually I wind up with an impulse purchase like socks or lip balm while I’m buying books for other people. Soon we were basking in the famous city block of wall-to-wall books plus a tweebomb of paraphernalia. I wasn’t sure if I was to look in the self-help section, biographies or elsewhere for This is How so I asked at the info desk and received a little
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Book Pairing: Irreverence

Do you feel restrained by social confines and “good manners”? Do you dream of behaving terribly at the risk of alienating everyone you respect and everything you hold dear? Let these real guys do it for you instead! Pretend it’s you who’s exposing your corroded guts to the world and feel the benefit of a good airing; or just let these willing authors beat you like a rug until you are clean and quiet.

blog_homeHome is Fucking Burning by Dan Marshall

Young, rich, white assholes return home to care for their dying parents.
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Lust and Wonder by Augusten Burroughs

Burroughs mercilessly fillets and dissects his love life for your reading pleasure.

 

~Librarian Robin

Book Pairing: Rations

 

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For today’s tasting, we have one fiction and one non-fiction World War II-era selection. They compliment each other nicely in that one is an adventure with much description of food and rations integrated into the story, and one is non-fiction about actual creativity with rations including recipes and commentary.

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah is a leap beyond Hannah’s earlier romance writing. She is strong in expressing the passion and emotion of love which she uses to add depth to this novel without making it the primary focus. The story tells of two sisters in occupied France, one struggles on the homefront fighting starvation and loneliness, and one risks her life rescuing downed fighter pilots. It is a sensational story, sometimes a little over the top, but a page-turner for sure.

How to Cook a Wolf by MFK Fisher is a light-hearted guide to wartime thrift, especially regarding rations and how to make them stretch as far as possible. The edition I read has author commentary in parentheses that I found interesting, but distracting. Fisher’s  voice is delightful, however, and I enjoyed reading something so uplifting and humorous about a truly grim situation.

There you have it-Enjoy!

~Librarian Robin

“No Worries” Public Domain Books

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We know public domain ebooks are out there, titles with expired copyrights, but sometimes it takes a bit of a hunt to find that certain something. I recently borrowed the new BBC Father Brown miniseries and it just didn’t ring true to my view of Chesterton’s Father Brown or what makes the stories intriguing to me. Long story short, I still craved a Father Brown fix. Two of his collections are readily available via Project Gutenberg,  but the others are not. Somehow my research brought me here to Ebooks@Adelaide, the University of Adelaide’s ebook collection, which has the Complete Father Brown with three of the collections I was missing, and I had my choice of downloading, sending to my Kindle, or reading the ePub version. How convenient! And their search screen is user-friendly. It is a gem of a site and I wanted to share. When electronic versions of public domain titles were first available, formatting was extremely limited and transcriptions were frequently off or missing pages. What a difference a decade makes! There are still a few Father Brown stories I am missing so I will continue the hunt.

Ayres Rock, Australia: A Kangaroo warning road sign in the desert near Uluru

~Librarian Robin