New Volumes of My Favorite Comics

Saga, Vol. 8, by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples. Four stars. Excellent as always, less robot penis than usual, so plenty of good news. For the bad news, in chapter 47: oh my god, Brian K. Vaughan, no, absolutely fucking not. That is too far. Such excruciatingly graphic sexual violence against women is fetishistic, and…

The Glorious Heresies, by Lisa McInerney

Four stars, read in February 2018. I was drawn into this hard, once it got going. The audio narration is excellent, but gives no indications of the physical format—sections that are printed in italics, occasional illuminating “chapter” titles (they’re not really chapters but what do I call them?)—so the book wasn’t really working until I…

Tolstoy and the Purple Chair, by Nina Sankovitch

Two or three stars, read and reviewed in July 2014. This was not as exciting as I expected it to be, I think because I had a hard time connecting with the author. It may be obnoxious of me—and this wasn’t the only reason I didn’t connect with her—but I get impatient with women who…

The Buried Giant, by Kazuo Ishiguro

Four stars, read in June/July 2017. I loved the premise and the atmosphere of the post-Arthurian setting, and found the first half of this book very engaging. It follows characters who live in sort of medieval villages of Britons and Saxons, and although no one seems to remember any specifics, we know it’s been a…

The Origin of Others, by Toni Morrison

Four stars, read in December 2017. When I think back on this book, the anecdote I remember is the one Morrison shares about coming across a woman near the fence on her property. The scene of their meeting is peaceful and friendly (because fences are “where the most interesting things always happen”), and Morrison’s thoughts…

Snow Country, by Yasunari Kawabata

Three stars, read in January 2018. Widely considered to be his masterpiece, the Goodreads description says, but . . . Hmm. I was decidedly underwhelmed by this book. There is absolutely beautiful imagery in his descriptions of snow country (I gave it an extra star for that reason). It was a stern night landscape. The…

A Tale of Two Cities, by Charles Dickens

Four stars, read from October to November 2017. I decided to read this book right now because of some TV show we were watching recently, and I’m hoping that by the end of this post I’ll be able to remember what it was. A character must have made a reference to the opening lines of…

My Holiday in North Korea: The Funniest/Worst Place on Earth, by Wendy Simmons

Four stars, read in January 2018. I almost didn’t take this home, irritated with it for seeming flippant about a subject that is not in any way amusing (particularly after I’d just finished accounts by Jang Jin-sung and Suki Kim that were emotional and difficult to read). I flipped through to see the photos, of which there are many,…

November Mini Reviews

Long Way Down, by Jason Reynolds. Five stars. Oh, wow, I loved everything about this. The premise is such a cool one, with the elevator and the chronological ghosts; the verse is skillful and adds visually to the story; and the protagonist’s voice is just so painfully young and real. God, if only we could…

Amazing Peace, by Maya Angelou

One star, read in December 2013. Of course this was gorgeous, and in general, I love Maya Angelou’s . . . everything. But I didn’t love this book’s illustrations, and frankly, if the poem weren’t written by Maya Angelou I would give it negative stars. Because as nice an idea as this “amazing peace” is,…

The Essential Dykes to Watch Out For, by Alison Bechdel

Five stars, read in July 2014. For the first 50 pages it seemed like I wasn’t making any progress—it’s one of those books that looks longer than it is, so you feel like it will never end. Once I got to the last hundred or so pages, I was hoping it never would. It’s funny, really, because several of…

The Bedlam Stacks, by Natasha Pulley

Five stars, read in September 2017. I’ve never read anyone who writes male characters the way Natasha Pulley does, and it’s irresistible to me. This book took longer to get going, but it’s also more polished than her first book; by the end, I’d fallen in love with Merrick and Raphael nearly as hard as…

The Bonesetter’s Daughter, by Amy Tan

Five stars, read in October/November 2017. It’s been several years since I last read Amy Tan and I was starting to wonder whether her books were a phase I’d grown out of. They are not. I deeply loved everything about this book, including (especially) the fact that in the audiobook, LuLing’s sections are beautifully narrated…

The Soul of an Octopus, by Sy Montgomery

Three and a half stars, read in November 2017. There is so much interesting information in this book, but it’s a very personal memoir, too; it’s almost more about the author than it is about octopuses. (First piece of interesting information: octopi is not the correct plural form! Because the word octopus comes from Greek, and you can’t put…

The Savage Detectives, by Roberto Bolaño

Two or three stars, read in August 2017. I was really annoyed about this book. I really wanted to like it, which was probably part of the problem. It took me forever and I pressured myself to finish it, which was certainly part of the problem. I can’t say why exactly, but this book just…

The Remains of the Day, by Kazuo Ishiguro

Four stars, read in October 2017. The Remains of the Day is absolutely masterful. I was constantly impressed by the subtlety, the way the protagonist’s voice is so careful and forthcoming that it didn’t occur to me to question his accuracy, until suddenly the perspective would widen and I’d realize what he’d been leaving out. Mr….

Jane, Unlimited, by Kristin Cashore

One star, read in October 2017. This did not work for me. Graceling and Bitterblue are two of my all-time favorites, and some of the little YA that I am still able to read, so I was really hopeful for Cashore’s first book outside that series. But, in the first place, I wish I could…

The Age of American Unreason, by Susan Jacoby

Four stars, read in July 2017. The most consistent theme of my experience reading this book was oh my god, if she said this ten years ago, what would she say now? I have minor differences with Jacoby, but her premise is clearly, demonstrably correct: in whatever our current age is called, almost nothing in…

Neverwhere, by Neil Gaiman

Two and a half stars, read in October 2017. Eh. This book has a great premise, and Gaiman is surprisingly good at narrating his own book, though I can’t figure out how he sounds exactly the same whether I’m listening at regular speed, 1.2x times it, or even 1.4x. (Have to admit, I ended up…

Anna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy

Two stars, read in September 2017. Will possibly downgrade to one star after I think more about it. This was not an enjoyable experience and upon finishing, I felt like I should apologize to myself for forcing me through the whole thing. One thousand pages of farming, 19th-century Russian politics, and petty, jealous, self-absorbed characters…

That Old Ace in the Hole, by Annie Proulx

Five stars, read in October 2017. I started with this at four stars, planning to bump it up to five if it stuck with me after a couple weeks. Annie Proulx is just . . . a master. How did I just read a book about all the things I find least interesting in the…

What Happened, by Hillary Rodham Clinton 

Four stars, or maybe 3.5, read in September 2017. I haven’t actually spoken to many people about Hillary Clinton, because I try not to for my own sanity. But when I have, and when I’ve read articles and books about her, they have almost never—the “almost” might not even be necessary—been entirely reasonable. Hillary has said…

Tonoharu, by Lars Martinson

Four stars, read in March 2017, then again in August. I didn’t write what I thought about each book as I finished it, so I can only think of the trilogy as a whole—but you really have to read all three, so it’s just as well. The story is written a bit confusingly; the two…