Month: September 2023

The Door in the Wall by Marguerite De Angeli

I remember seeing this book when I was younger. Some time ago, I put a few Newberry award winners on my holds and this one seemed to stick more than the others. This is a medieval story about a young boy from a noble family. It’s a gentle adventure story. Robin the protagonist has limited use of his legs probably as a result of polio. I didn’t know the plot until I started it. It was fitting as I have mobility issues due to leg and back pain. I liked it.

3.75/5 stars. September 11, 2023.

Edelweiss by Cédric Mayen, illustrated by Lucy Mazel

I don’t remember where I got the recommendation for this one. It’s a French graphic novel. I vaguely thought it would be YA but it’s actually for adults. It took me a little bit to get into as I started looking up the words. It’s been years since I read a French book. I was using Duolingo to keep up French up until a month ago, but I’d prefer to watch French movies or TV or read to keep it up. The visuals helped as I began to understand most of the dialogue after awhile. I did learn or relearn some expressions and vocabulary. I read it out loud to myself a few times because I’ve found French easier to understand orally. The story is a slow at first but covers the relationship between an independent upper middle class woman named Olympe and working class Edmond. Olympe wants to climb Mont Blanc like her ancestor. Over the years, a lot tragedy happens in their lives. It was a bit too much because a lot of the sad events happened very quickly in the second half of the book. I did cry at the end because it is a sad book. It was movingly done and well drawn. I liked Olympe.

3.75/5 stars. September 12, 2023.

Throne of Glass by Sarah J Maas

I decided to try this series because the court series books were taking too long from my library. This was the author’s debut novel and first series. The writing is rougher here than ACOTAR. It took me 3 workdays to read this and it felt slow because I was bored most of the time. The main character Calena is too perfect: a beautiful famous assassin, likes books, likes dresses, like dogs, plays the piano, a good flirt, speaks at least two languages, and of course, has two male love interests. As a character reader, I am trying to be lenient since these are more plot and setting stories. All of the characters were thinly drawn. The plot was slow. I do think a lot of the characters are likeable even though they are not that well developed. I also appreciated the small female friendship in this novel. I am not rushing to read the second novel in this series, but I may return after awhile since I’ve heard this series also gets better.

3/5 stars. September 12-15, 2023.

Sandman: Overture by Neil Gaiman

It has been many years since I read the Sandman series. It was one of the few 5 star graphic novels of my youth. I am wondering now if I would rate it as highly. I do think the ideas, art, and writing are great but having come from reading Monstress, I find the latter superior and personally more relevant. Morpheus as a character is compelling but I aso find there is a lack of emotionality because they are the Endless. It’s been awhile so I forgot a lot of the characters as well. It was fine with great visuals as usual.

3.5/5 stars. September 15-16, 2023.

Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs?: Big Questions from Tiny Mortals about Death by Caitlin Doughty

Narrated by the author. This was not as good as her previous book. It’s more for middle grade readers but it still has lots of info about death practices.

3.5/5 stars. Mostly 1.5x. September 8-16, 2023.

DNF: The Swedish Art of Aging Exuberantly: Life Wisdom from Someone Who Will (Probably) Die Before You by Margareta Magnusson

Narrated by Natascha McElhone. Juliet Stevenson narrated the first one and I was disappointed she didn’t narrate this one. McElhone has a nice voice and natural accent but she puts on a Scandinavian accent. It was distracting and unnecessary. I enjoyed Magnusson’s first book for its tips and considerations about death cleaning, but this book did not really have anything useful. She has lived a great and privileged life and talks more about it in this book. It’ wasn’t relevant to me and I found myself too bored. I thought I could bear it for the 4 hours but when I got halfway, I realized I couldn’t tolerate it anymore.

DNF. September 16, 2023.

My husband grew up with Tintin and had been collecting the hardcover editions of the Adventures of Tintin. I have nice memories of watching the French and Canadian made Tintin animated series in the 1990s which is probably one of the most faithful comic adaptations. I maybe read one of the books as a kid. I remember browsing them at the library. Recently, I’ve been trying to read the books that we own and also read books which are important to my partner.

As of this writing, we own eight of these books. He had collected seven of the books in hardcover and one softcover given by a friend. His goal was to buy one hardcover every year or so. He hasn’t really been doing that the last few years so I ordered one to this collection before I started reading. They are imported books and take awhile to come in. I am going to read the ones we don’t have in French from the library. They are middle grade and would be great practice for me.

Tintin in the Congo (TinTin #2)

We do not own the first one which is “The Land of the Soviets” as that was not part of the canon when he was a kid. He also never read this Congo one because it was likely restricted due to its racist content.

It was hard to read. Originally published in 1931, Herge coloured it and published it again in 1946. He said it was an experimental early work. Let’s start with the good. Some of the drawings are fun. Snowy goes “Woooaaah”. I learned the word psittacosis. Snowy is adorable except when he said, “Missionaries are the tops!”

The bad. Belgians were arguably the worse colonizers which is saying something. Their view of Africans was problematic even when this book was written. The Africans are not drawn well literally and figuratively. It it was extremely patronizing. Tintin is a white saviour figure. The hunting is awful as many animals are shot at or tortured for comic relief. The plot was really flimsy. Also why is it that Tintin is so popular as a journalist? He was offered $10,000 to be a correspondent making him one of the most in demand journalist in history. I didn’t really see the Tintin character or appeal at in this comic book.

2/5 stars. Read August 9, 2023.

Tintin in the Land of the Soviets (Tintin #1)

My husband never read this one either and I didn’t expect much due to Wikipedia article which noted that it was “joyously bizarre” and allegedly Hergé’s worst.

The worst part is up for debate. I think the Congo was worst in some ways because of the racism and animal abuse content. This one had racism too but it wasn’t there as much and it wasn’t in colour. This one moved at an even faster pace yet I became bored me with how many messes Tintin got himself into. Tintin lacks personality in both these books. Snowy is still sassy at least. Overall, the book felt very dated and not really a classic. I look forward to when the stories and characters get better.

2.25/5 stars. Read August 30, 2023.

Tintin in America (Tintin #3 )

This one was better than the first two because of its satire on America. It still has racist depictions of Native Americans, but the satire about how America treat them in the story was not bad. I still found Tintin a blank slate of a character. I don’t understand why he’s so special. The pacing is very fast because these are comics but this was less overwhelming than the first two books.

2.5/5 stars. Read September 16, 2023.

The Book that No One Wanted to Read by Richard Ayoade

Cute and amusing but didn’t knock my socks off.

3.25/5 stars. Read on Libby app. Sept 1-4, 2023.

Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosch

This was suppose to be a funny webcomic collection. This was a bit hard for me to read since it deals heavily with depression and suicidal ideation. The author is severely depressed and I could relate to some of the things she wrote about. Some of the comics amused me but the humor didn’t always work for me. I admire the author’s ability to create art. It is good but it doesn’t lift me up so I won’t read her next works.

3.5/5 stars. Sept 5, 2023.

From Here to Eternity: Traveling the World to Find the Good Death by Caitlin Doughty

Narrated by the author. Another Reading Glasses recommendation. Doughty has a nice voice. As someone with an interest in death, this was right up my alley. I didn’t love all the locations but I enjoyed Dougthy’s observations and reflections in many of them.

4.25/5 stars. Sept 1-6, 2023. Mostly 1.4x.

We are never meeting in real life by Samantha Irby

Narrated by the author. I have mixed feelings. The author and I are very different people. There was too much sexual content for me. There was aggressive humor which I didn’t find funny most of the time. On the other hand, I’ve heard Irby on a podcast and reading between the lines in this book, I find myself respecting and even liking her. She is raw and upfront about who she is and her life. I also liked how she discussed depression, anxiety, and death. I got the feeling she is a great friend. Considering her life circumstances, she’s faced things with her head held high. I do admire that. I have her next two books on hold as well and they are actually easy to listen to in some ways so I’ll likely try the next one.

3.25/5 stars. Sept 5-8, 2023. Mostly 1.5x.

Monstress Vol 5-7 by Marjorie M. Liu, Illustrated by Sana Takeda

I hadn’t caught up to this epic fantasy graphic novel series since pre-pandemic. I forgot almost everything but started remembering some as I went through. The world building is so deep and complex. As a character and setting reader, this series is very intense.

I love this series. It is dark and emotional and even spiritual and humanistic. It has female relationships and found families. It’s also amazingly illustrated. I actually think this is my favourite graphic novel series now over both Sandman and Promethea. Since the story was created by two Asian female writers and has influences in East Asian history and symbolism, I can relate to it much more. I would really like to reread this series when it is done. I love how so much has unfolded. There is a lot of emotionality. I look forward to the next edition.

4.25-4.5/5 stars. September 9-10, 2023.

Garlic & the Vampire and Garlic & the Witch by Bree Paulsen

Very cute and extremely low stakes (pun intended) middle grade graphic novels. I liked the second book slightly more but I liked how easy both were to read. I think I prefer the Tea dragons more for poignancy, but really liked this series and its very lovely artwork.

4.25/5 stars. Read August 27, 2023.

Better Living Through Birding: Notes from a Black Man in the Natural World by Christian Cooper

Narrated by the author. My favourite book podcast and a someone in my book club recommended this in the same week. Over the years, I have consumed less memoirs because they started to feel more packaged due to the influence of publishers and ghost writers. They weren’t bad exactly, but they felt a bit more self-indulgent as an industry. Cooper is not a celebrity in the same way though and he does have a background as an editor and writer. He is intelligent, reflective, and considerate telling his story. His audio narration is great. He is expressive and warm. I am so glad I listened to it. I was really engaged and really wanted to finish the book after I read my print ones. I found the writing about his love of birds, nature, and family quite moving. His stories about traveling were good too. The book had the right amount of reflection for me. There are bird songs in the audiobook! I loved that. Probably one of the better memoirs I’ve read in the last couple of years.

4.5/5 stars. Listened August 17-29, 2023. 1.3x most of the time.

Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds

Narrated by the author. This is a short YA novella in verse. I borrowed it because I had read a great interview about Jason Reynolds in the New Yorker and then watched more interviews with him. His championing of children’s literature is wonderful. This novella is about gun violence and the endless cycle of revenge especially in youth gangs. The poetry aspect of it is well done and I am glad I listened to the audiobook.

4/5 stars. Listened August 29, 2023. 1.3x.

Legends and Lattes by Travis Baldree

Narrated by the author. The book that named a genre. While cozy fantasy has always been a thing especially in my world, this book led the charge of the genre being prominent in book culture recently. I lined up the audiobook for it and the library hold finally came in. I decided to start with the audiobook or go between them. Baldree has been a prolific audiobook narrator for years. I was not sure about his narration at first but when the voices started, I was impressed. In the end, I listened to the whole thing on audiobook. It wasn’t long and it did have a cozy vibe. The plot is rather slow and there is a lack of depth in some ways. I found the romance was not built up well enough. I wanted more character and relationship development. It’s not an essential read nor is it my favourite cozy fantasy of this year. I do think it has its charming moments especially as an audiobook. I enjoyed how easy it was to listen to it while I did my chores or physio exercises. This book is a vibe as the kids say. I had a chocolate chip cookie because it featured one prominently. I look forward to listening to the prequel.

3.75/4 stars. Listened August 29-31, 2023. 1.3x.

Some Writer!: The Story of E. B. White by Melissa Sweet

This is a favourite of some friends in my book club. It’s a well done middle grade biography with great illustrations and art. I learned a lot of things about E. B. White and the book is a lovely homage to his writing. I read this during a silent book club meeting with a couple bookish friends.

3.5/5 stars. Read August 31, 2023.

New Yorker

July 24, 2023: I found this newer edition beginning of August. Since I had been reading all these 2021, I was glad to find a newer one. Maybe it was the not great weekend that I read it but I found this edition on the grim side. It had stories about M.S., Haiti and its gangs, changing Nashville, bears, and neoliberalism. Maybe I shouldn’t read these on my off days.
August 9, 2021: This had a David Seders essay which I read in his most recent book and did not have many articles I was interested in.
August 16, 2021: The James Webb Space Telescope. Learned about Jason Reynolds and watched some interviews with him as a result too. I skipped the Fiction and was reminded about Ted Lasson S2. I read the review about “Annette”. I like the actors in the cast but probably won’t watch it since I watch very few movies and TV these days because of books.