Monday, December 31, 2018

2018 books

It's that time of the year again.
Time to review all the books I've read in the past three hundred sixtyish days.
As always, after the book title and author, I've got a brief review/synopsis/thoughts, and then the book's final sentence in parenthesis. (Spoiler tagged out except for the final word.) Heh. Spoiler tags. I'm so old.

Only 44 books this year, and, unsurprisingly, a number of them are graphic novels. However... next year I'm following in Stephanie's footsteps and partaking in a Goodreads challenge. So, if nothing else, I should have a much wider selection of titles in the following year. For now, though, here's what 2018 hath wrought:

Books read in 2018:

1. Strange Weather by Joe Hill – four novellas, each with a theme of bizarre weather (well, Loaded’s weather connection is tenuous, but whatever). Snapshot is sort of a cousin to The Sun Dog; this one has a guy with a supernatural Polaroid that can steal memories. Loaded is about a racist ex-military security guard who kills a mass shooter. It went a little overboard near the end, but it was still a good story. Aloft has a character skydiving and finds himself landing on a solid(ish) cloud that has a semi-telepathic link to him. (Yeah, it’s weird.) And Rain is a semi-apocalyptic tale about clouds raining needles. Rain had a great protagonist, Honeysuckle, whom I found a joy to spend time with. I hated Aloft’s narrator/protagonist, though. The ending of Loaded has stuck with me for the past four days since I finished it. And Snapshot was just more or less fluff, enjoyable, with some beautiful lines, but I don’t know if it’ll stick with me the way the others did. Here are the final sentences from each (note that Loaded’s is impactful, and should only be read if you’ve already read the story): Snapshot “Me neither,” I said – and I haven’t yet. Loaded If you had a gun,” he said to her, “this story might have a different ending.” Aloft He figured his mother might like to know he was alive. RainGod, let it be so.

2. Saga vol 8 by Brian K. Vaughn – Ehh. Previous volumes of Saga incorporated metaphors and philosophical ideas about various topics in a more natural fashion. This was blatant and felt preachy and just blah. I still want to see what happens with Hazel, but I think I’m okay with waiting until it’s all wrapped up (or at least a few more volumes have been released) to catch up on it all. The artwork is still fantastic, but this really did feel like filler and didn’t connect with me. (And that boy would become my brother.)

3. Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House by Michael Wolff –Donald Trump is the world’s most self-absorbed piece of shit. He’s also suffering from dementia to some degree. He’s misogynistic, xenophobic, racist, short-tempered (and short-fingered) and an all around asshole. His presidential campaign, election, and presidency is the greatest mistake America has ever made (and that’s saying something). None of this is news to anyone with even a few working brain cells. This book though, made it clear that a lot of people who are in politics are horrible (and a lot of RICH people are horrible, too), and Trump has surrounded himself with garbage-people who are all running their own agendas. Sigh. I just want him gone. He’s truly a horrible, horrible person, and the sooner he’s gone from our lives the better. (Standing on the Brietbart steps that October morning, Bannon smiled and said: “It’s going to be wild as shit.”)

4. I Am Not Okay With This by Charles Forsman – short graphic novel about Sydney, a teenage lesbian with emerging telekinesis. It felt like this might have been a better novel than a graphic novel, just so we could have gotten more time to experience Sydney’s life – although her life was a really downbeat one. (This is my gift to them.)

5. The Walking Dead vol 29 Lines We Cross by Robert Kirkman – eh. Started strong (I actually felt like characters were mourning the death from vol 28). Ended strong (if this was the last we see of Negan, that would be an EXCELLENT way to have wrapped up his arc). Middle was a whole lot of nothing. Princess may turn into someone I like, but the jury is still out. Overall, a lot of filler. I’m not sure where things are going yet. (Let’s go home.)

6. Paper Girls vol 4 by Brian K. Vaughn – Keeps getting better. (That’s what I thought the year 2000 would look like.)

7. Positive by David Wellington – Doorstopper of a novel from one of my favorite horror writers. This was about a zombie apocalypse 20 years later. A lot of the world is not in great shape. Finn lives in New York, until his mother goes zombie (when you get infected with the zombie virus you become a time bomb – you could turn in 20 minutes, or you could take up to 20 years to turn). Finn gets a tattoo on his hand indicating that he’s been possibly exposed (it could have been transmitted to him via breast milk when he was a baby), and is exiled from his community to go to a government holding facility for other “positives”. Except the government driver who is supposed to take him there winds up getting murdered by ‘road pirates’. So Finn has to go on the run. This was 400-something pages, and while it could have been a little bit slimmer, overall I really enjoyed the world that Wellington built. He’s been known to continue books in his worlds, so maybe we’ll meet up with the positives again. I wouldn’t object. (We did not put a tattoo on her little hand, and we aren’t going to.)

8. Day Four by Sarah Lotz – this had a great set up (a cruise ship gets stranded in the Gulf of Mexico, there’s a rapist-turned-murderer on board, as well as a psychic who may or may not be a fraud) …but then it just squandered it all. Things got worse on the ship, and the psychic began to build a cult, but any tension with regard to the rapist was lost when he got attacked by a spirit? Or something? And the “suicide sisters” (they were elderly women who had decided to commit suicide together during the cruise) - another couple of characters that had potential that was just completely wasted because one of them caught a norovirus that was going through the ranks of the ship. There were hints that the captain of the ship either didn’t exist, or was more devious than he should have been, but that fizzled out too. And the final fifth of the book was completely off the rails of what the rest of the novel had been. I mean, it had potential as well, but it came out of NOWHERE, and was like, “WHAT???” It was as if the author had six or seven ideas for different novels and just threw them all in. When I went to rate this at goodreads, I was originally going to give it two stars, but the more I thought of the wasted time and potential and honestly not that great writing, the angrier I got and the more I felt like this was just not a book I could recommend at all, so I gave it one star. AND I found out that apparently, this is a sequel. So apparently some of the characters from the first were included in this, and, evidently, the last fifth of this book makes more sense if you’ve read the first one. I won’t be reading it, though. (And then he laughs.)

9. The Chalk Man by C.J. Tudor – so good. Extremely creepy and very twisty mystery – due in large part to an unreliable narrator, who does an excellent job casting doubt on EVERYONE involved in the telling of a coming of age tale in 1986 in England. Ed Addams and his gang felt real, and the neighborhood they lived in was brought to life wonderfully. Seeing the ravages of time between 86 and 2016 were sad and powerful as well. And then of course, there were the murder(s..) that happened. It got a little bit over twisty near the end, but I powered through this in a day and a half, and will absolutely be looking for more from this author. (I start the engine and drive away … toward Manchester, and my future.)

10. The Outsider by Stephen King – Just a sort of mediocre King novel, actually. It was immensely readable – it was King, after all – and it was a neat idea, but …overall it didn’t connect somehow. The characters were tough for me to care about, for some reason. Even the gruesome murder that takes place at the beginning felt… artificial? I don’t know. A character added at the midpoint was …unexpected, but kind of good, too? Like I get that King likes that character, but I’m not sure she belonged in this novel? Overall, I don’t know that this one was anything that will be remembered for long. Oh well. (That was good.)

11. Monster by Michael Grant – I really enjoyed the Gone series, which was written by Michael Grant. (Basic premise – a dome comes down a California beach town, Perdido Beach, and anyone aged 16 or older is transported out – leaving just the children to fend for themselves in the impenetrable dome. Things get worse when certain kids begin to develop superpowers. So, like Lord of the Flies mixed with Heroes.) Anyway, when I saw that he had started a new trilogy set in the same universe, I was totally on board. And this started off great – it was neat to revisit some of the old characters from the Gone-verse, and most of the new characters were enjoyable enough, as well. But as the book went on, it just got… boring? Like the stakes are way too high now (the asteroid that caused the FAYZ from the original series has more rocks approaching earth, and they’re landing everywhere, and people near them get powers)… and the mystery behind the powers is known (aliens, pretty much) and it just felt like everything was cranked up to 11, but it made it really hard to CARE. I’m not entirely sure if I’ll read the next two books in the series or not. Oh, who am I kidding, I’ll at least check out book 2, and see if it gets better. Still, I hope that the magic isn’t really gone, that would be a pity. (“Well, Dekka, maybe it’s time that I was your strong right arm instead of the other way around,” Sam Temple said.)

12. Vicious by V.E. Schwab – Another book about superheroes (or EOs, “ExtraOrdinary”s) but this one was SO GOOD. The world building was nifty, but the real treat was the characters, and how the protagonist and antagonist (Eli and Victor) more or less switch over the course of the novel. And, oh, man, the relationships between Sydney and Serena and Sydney and Victor and of course, Mitchell. And Dol! All of the characters were a treasure, even if living around any of them would be extraordinarily frightening. Apparently there’s a sequel, so I’ve got another book to look forward to! Hooray!! (A moment later, the cold ran up here arms, and caught her breath, and beneath her hands a heartbeat fluttered, as Victor Vale opened his eyes, and smiled.)

13. Sleep Over: An Oral History of the Apocalypse by H.G. Bells – I gave this 4 stars on Goodreads, but I think it’s really more of a 3.5-er (unfortunately, you can’t do half stars on Goodreads)… Anyway. Basic gist of this novel was that an unexplained affliction of insomnia affects the entire world simultaneously. Each chapter of this was the recounting of a survivor (so, spoiler alert, the insomnia eventually ends, and also spoiler, not everyone dies). So, in a lot of ways, it’s a lot like World War Z (the book, not the movie) – where it’s first hand narratives of people who experienced the end of the world. Only it wasn’t the undead, it was people not being able to fall asleep. Which, bonus points for originality there. Some of the cons, though were that the voices of the characters…weren’t really that different from each other. Very few of the characters “stood out”, and there also wasn’t enough time with anyone for them to truly develop. There were scenes in each vignette that were shocking or compelling or whatever, but there was no character growth, or much of an overall plot, either. It was more a collection of dozens and dozens of (very) short stories that were all connected by being in the same world. That being what it was, it did very well. It’s obvious that the author did a lot of research, and they’re quite talented with writing, and world building, so, if this author writes anything else, I’ll give it a look. (Sleep, and sleep well.)

14. The Cabin at the End of the World by Paul Tremblay – Paul Tremblay is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors. This novel was mostly really really good. The final third wobbles a bit, though, sadly. Andrew and Eric have their adopted daughter, Wen, out on an isolated cabin near the Canadian border, when four strangers carrying homemade weapons arrive and demand to talk to them about making a choice that will impact the entire future of the world. Things get ugly very very fast. It’s a short novel – or felt short, because I read through it pretty quickly. I can easily see this being turned into a very tense movie. Like I said, the final 3rd of the book was… different than the first 2/3rd somehow. And while I love me some ambiguity, I felt like maybe the book would have been stronger if it had provided a more solid stance on certain events, but whatever. Overall it was a great novel. (We will go on.)

15. The Oracle Year by Charles Soule – Will Dando wakes up one morning with 108 predictions in his head. He starts posting them online, and as the predictions start actually happening, the world reacts. This was… okay. There were certain plot developments that I didn’t see coming, and there were others that weren’t explained sufficiently, in my opinion. And the character development was hit-or-miss, but, hey, it was interesting enough that I finished it, and was written well enough that I would probably be willing to check out future works from this author. (If it turned out that she did have more to say, well, there was always tomorrow.)

16. Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 11 Vol.1 The Spread of Their Evil by Christos Gage – Sigh. I haven’t read every “season” of the Buffy comics, but I’ve peeked at Wikipedia here and there to somewhat keep up with what’s been developing, and I think I read most of season 10? Or maybe 9? I can’t recall. Point is, my love for Buffy is a powerful thing, but I think it’s waning. This installment was just… bad. It’s supposed to feel “timely”, I’m guessing, but the government/racism/xenophobia storylines just felt …tiring, and trite and just not great. I mean, Trump’s America is crappy, making comics that are thinly veiled metaphors about it feels …tired, I guess. (But once they’ve got all that power… I promise you, whatever they want to use it for is going to be worse.)

17. Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 11 Vol 2. One Girl in All the World by Christos Gage – the story was slightly better than the first volume, but I’m pretty much done with Buffy at this point. It’s just the Buffy/Spike/Willow show, and really, they’re the worst/most boring characters they’ve got in that universe. (I love you, too.)

18. Mosquitoland by David Arnold – quite good. YA novel about 16 year old Mary Iris Malone (Mim) who runs away from home after her father remarries, and letters from her mom stop arriving. She is informed that her mom has been hospitalized, and she hops on a bus to go see her. The ending had some writing and plot twists that were phenomenal. The middle meandered a little, and some of the quirky characters were a little bit TOO quirky, but overall this was very enjoyable. (Because sometimes a thing’s not real until you say it out loud.)

19. Those Girls by Chevy Stevens – a “thriller” that was poorly written. 3 young girls live with their abusive, alcoholic father on a farm. One night he gets especially abusive, and he ends up getting killed in self defense. The girls go on the run shortly thereafter, only to end up getting captured by two teenage/early twenty boys who rape and torture them. Last half of the book jumps forward 17 years, and none of the “girls” (they’re grown women, but, of course, everyone (author included) still refers to them as “girls”) have made their lives all that much better. And one of them had a child as a result of the rapes. Blah. I’m irritated at myself for having finished this – I kept commenting that I needed to “finish my stupid book”. I knew while I was reading it that it wasn’t good, but I kept convincing myself it would get better. As is so often the case in these types of situations, it didn’t. Also of note, this book came into my circle of knowledge due to a recommendation from Stephen King. This isn’t the first time that he’s led me astray, sadly. Although there have been other recommendations that were fine. He’s hit or miss with those, is what I’m saying. (Three of us, once again.)

20. Letter 44 Volume I: Escape Velocity by Charles Soule – the 43rd president (Carroll) ends his presidency and leaves his successor (Stephen Blades) a letter telling him that 7 years ago, alien technology was discovered out near the asteroid belt. A crew on the spaceship USS Clarke was sent to investigate. Oh, and those wars that the US has been fighting were done to help build an army on the off chance that the aliens are on their way to earth. This was a pretty neat graphic novel – it has some flaws, but is intriguing enough to keep my interest in the series. (Just remember, when things get bleak – you are not alone.)

21. Letter 44 Volume II: Redshift by Charles Soule – the political backstabbing on Earth ratchets up, while the storyline on the Clarke gets …weird. I’m still on board with seeing where this is gonna go, especially as Blades makes decisions that are equally rational and obsessively boneheaded. (All I have to do is love you.)

22. Smek for President by Adam Rex – I read “The True Meaning of Smekday” a few years back, and enjoyed that, so when I discovered that a sequel had been written, I figured, sure. It was not quite as much fun as the original (law of diminishing returns strikes again, I guess). It was still somewhat fun, there were a few moments of joy/fun, but it felt like a case of …trying too hard? Still, it was just a YA (or maybe younger, really) novel that was light and breezy. J.Lo, Tip, and the new characters, Funsize, and Bill are all enjoyable enough to spend a few hours with here and there, so if they have any other adventures in the future, I’ll be there. (Am I late?)

23. The Song of the Orphans by Daniel Price – book 2 in the “Silvers” trilogy. I read book 1 in 2015, and declared it as “700 pages of awesome timey-wimey goodness”. Book 2 is another 700 pages of awesome timey-wimey goodness. Although, a little bit of the shine has worn off. Not a lot, but just enough to make it not *quite* as exciting as the first book was. But, this was still a great time. There was a MAJOR twist/reveal at around the ¾ mark, and it made me want to go back through the entire series at that point to see if there had been hints/foreshadowing. I opted not to, because MAN that would be a lot of work, and also because Daniel Price has OBVIOUSLY planned this entire epic extremely well. Anyway, book 1 had the number 5 throughout, and this one had the number 4 pop up constantly. Which made me wonder if it’s really going to be a 5 book series, rather than a trilogy, and each book would have the number get lower. The overall series IS counting down to the date where the world is going to end, after all. Still, this series has been a lot of fun so far, and I’m eagerly awaiting book 3. (They kept perfect time.)

24. Beverly by Nick Drnaso – graphic novel, quick read. A bunch of slice-of-life stories about various folks in Anytown, America. All of whom lead normal, modern, depressing-as-hell lives. This whole collection felt very human, moderately cynical, and just a tinge …off. I think if any of it had been balanced with a bit of hope or optimism, this may have been brilliant. Instead it was just a downer that left me a little confused, and a bit of a bad taste in my mouth. (See you later.)

25. Springfield Confidential: Jokes, Secrets, and Outright Lies from a Lifetime Writing for The Simpsons by Mike Reiss – Quick read that was part autobiography, part behind-the-scenes, part joke book from one of the contributing writers. I’m sure Mike is a funny and swell guy, but, sadly, a LOT of the jokes fell flat for me (much like modern episodes of the Simpsons!). Comedy is hard, after all. And comedy books even more so. For so much of comedy to work, it’s the delivery. But, the overall sense I got from the book is that writing at the Simpsons (going on season 30!! Holy crap!) is a lot of fun, but… I think it probably needs some new blood. Sure, everyone knows each other, and gets along just fine (there was incredibly little “drama” from all the years he’s worked there) but the show is really just a shadow of its former glorious self. It’s somewhat telling that a good portion of the stories and episodes he talked about were from the first 9 years… Ah, well, it was still a neat little glimpse into what goes into making a show that has absolutely changed the world we live in. (The teddy bear below it was my Christmas gift to Denise; the cremation urn was her gift to me.)

26. Jupiter’s Legacy Book One by Mark Millar – pretty standard superhero tale. A group of average folks find an island (which may have actually been an alien spaceship) back in the 1930s, which turned them into superheroes. 70 years later, and America isn’t doing all that great financially. Some infighting between the older superhero generation leads to a murder of the patriarch of the family, and his daughter (pregnant by the child of a supervillain…) goes on the run. Jump 10 years into the future. They’re still fugitives, until they get found out, and decide they’re going to finally fight back. Nothing new or groundbreaking, really, but it’s decent enough that I’ll continue reading the series for now. (When did superheroes ever care about the odds?)

27. Jupiter’s Legacy Book Two by Mark Millar – pretty sure the writers got tired of the storyline. It all got wrapped up pretty quickly, and while it dropped some hints at what story could be done going forward, I don’t think I’ll be interested enough to continue. The ending had a page stating that “Jupiter’s Requiem” would be coming in “2019”, so, they do seem to have finished up the “Legacy” section of the story they’re telling (there is also “Jupiter’s Circle” which is a prequel focusing on the 1932 generation that I have zero interest in.) Overall… I think that superhero stories have to be something REALLY special to stand out, and this just…wasn’t. (It’s the secret of the universe, sweetheart…why else would we be here?)

28. The Hunger by Alma Katsu – You know the Donner party? That doomed pioneer expedition back in 1846 where the group got stranded in the Sierra mountains and reportedly resorted to cannibalism in order to survive? Well…what if, horrific as that was, there was also something ELSE out there? Stalking them. Picking them off one by one. Hunting. This re-imagining was pretty great. Katsu writes beautifully, and captures the time very well – it’s crazy how not all THAT long ago, life was much more difficult and rough than it currently is. This was a neat – and especially near the end – very tense and gripping horror/history book. (He fell to his knees and reached out a hand.)

29. Vengeful by V.E. Schwab – It was so nice to get back into this universe! Apparently this is going to be a trilogy, which is the good news. The bad news is book 2 just came out, and I have no idea when 3 is going to be released. This brought back Victor and Eli and Sydney and Mitchell and Stell, and introduced a bunch of NEW EO’s (and an organization hunting them – EON): June, Marcella, and a large number of cannon fodder folks. Nobody is safe in this world. I gave this book 5 stars on goodreads, even if it was really more a 4.5, but the characters and world building are truly fantastic. I like how the concepts of family, power, revenge, death and sexism were all investigated and handled so well. The wait for the 3rd book is going to be brutal. (June glanced in the rearview mirror, checked her new face, and drove away.)

30. The Walking Dead vol. 30: New World Order by Robert Kirkman – okay, Walking Dead (comics version) is back on track. Two ideologies are about to clash, and I’m totally onboard with it. (Plus, no Negan!) It’s great that there can be tension in the storyline without zombies (I think only like 3 pages had any zombies in it to this time around) and the characters are strong enough for you to keep caring. No idea how this story arc will pan out, but the series has earned enough good will for me to keep with it, and as they are laying the groundwork for this arc to get going, they’ve got my interest. (Then maybe we need a new world order.)

31. Saga vol 9 by Michael K Vaughn – Volume 8 didn’t really work for me, but boy, did they make up for it with volume 9. All the feels. A few shocking deaths, crazy ass art work, humor, characters you love (or love to hate)… all the stuff that makes Saga great. (Not everybody does.)

32. Come Closer by Sara Gran – it’s called a novel on the outside cover, but it’s really more a novella, because it wasn’t even 200 pages. Anyway. Light breezy book about a woman, Amanda, who gets possessed by a demon, and has her life with her husband, Ed, pretty much destroyed as a result. The characters weren’t really developed well enough to care too much as Amanda’s life gets taken over by the demon, but it held my interest enough to read through the entire thing (the fact that it’s so short helps, too.) I think this is a rare book that would have been better had it actually been longer. (And that’s all I’ve ever wanted, really: someone to love me, and never leave me alone.)

33. Everything That Follows by Meg Little Reilly – Kat, Hunter, and Kyle head out onto Hunter’s boat after a late night of drinking, and Kyle accidentally falls overboard. Kat and Hunter panic, and don’t go the cops. This was …okay. The writing was above average, but there were a lot of confusing jumps in time, and while I wanted to find out what was going to happen I also found it difficult to get through. I may check out other stuff from the writer, because she does have a way with words. (Kyle, and the invulnerable tide that had pulled everything in, was behind her now.)

34. Kick Ass The New Girl Volume 1 by Mark Millar – The original Kick Ass graphic novels (and the first movie) were great fun, that got progressively less inventive and engaging. So, a reboot of the franchise? Well, sure. I’m down. And this one turned out to be pretty great! I like Patience, and watching as she grows into the superhero she actually is. And having her nemesis be related to her means some great drama is brewing for future installments. It’s not as funny as the original, and some of the gore at the end felt a little gratuitous, but that’s kind of to be expected with Millar’s stuff. Overall, I’m not complaining about this new installment at all. (What exactly do we call you?)

35. Elevation by Stephen King – short little novella from King. This was about Scott Carey, a guy in Castle Rock, who has been afflicted with a mysterious …affliction. He’s losing weight, but not mass. As his weightlessness drops closer and closer to zero, Scott’s interactions with some of the citizens of Castle Rock have bigger impacts. This was a super quick read that was …okay? Nothing huge, and it probably could have (and/or should have?) been included in a collection of short stories instead of released on its own. But, whatever. I’m pretty happy with any King work. (Somewhere high above them, Scott Carey continued to gain elevation, rising above the earth’s mortal grip with his face turned toward the stars.)

36. We Sold Our Souls by Grady Hendrix – this took a little bit of getting into for me, but once I did, it really took off and was one hell of a fun ride. Kris Pulaski was lead guitar in a heavy metal band called Dürt Würk in the early 90s. (Were there still metal bands in the early 90s? Sure, but grunge was kinda forcing them into oblivion, but whatever) Anyway, the band – Kris, Scottie Rocket on bass, Kurt on drums, and lead singer Terry Hunt – was on the verge of becoming “big”, when “contract night” happened. The band broke up, Terry went on to become a solo act known as Koffin (akaThe Blind King) (imagine huge elements of Marilyn Manson – which the novel even admits) who became super successful, while the other three members of the band became bitter and broken individuals. 20 years later, Koffin announces he’s doing a retirement tour, and Kris decides she needs to confront Terry about what happened on contract night, and perhaps get the band back together. When she goes to visit Scottie Rocket at his home, she finds that Scottie has become a paranoid, broken man who claims that Terry and his dark forces are spying on them all the time. Things get progressively worse and spookier as it becomes evident that Scottie’s delusions are…not so delusional. (While reading this, I saw a UPS driver coming into the station, and my heart stopped for a half a second…) This wasn’t a perfect book – like I said, it was a little bit slow at first, and I had hoped for a more satisfying conclusion to some of the character’s arcs – but I haven’t read a “bad” Hendrix novel yet, and this is another that I recommend to anyone who is a fan of metal, or horror, or the mixing of the two. (One pebble at a time.)

37. How to Invent Everything: A Survival Guide for the Stranded Time Traveller by Ryan North – This isn’t exactly a “novel”, per se. It’s packaged as a guidebook for anyone who uses a Chronotix FC3000 time travel machine and gets, well, stranded in a time in the past and wants to help boost that time period along. Find yourself thousands of years in the past and written language hasn’t been developed yet? Well, this book will help you out! Stranded in the time before penicillin? Got ya covered! Want to have your civilization skip over the dark ages and get into the Renaissance? This is the book for you. It’s a very dense, but still highly readable (and quite snarky) encyclopedia type manual that showcases all the different pieces that have gotten civilization to the point we’re at. (With warmest professional regards from your friends at Chronotix Solutions.)

38. Girl Town by Carolyn Nowak – graphic novel that was more like 5 short stories. Each of these were drawn with different (and yet, all highly impressive!) art styles. Most of the short stories didn’t really have much happen, but they were still enjoyable. The first was “Girl Town”, which focused on a group of young women who live next to each other; one of them has an unspoken crush on the meanest bully. Again, not a lot happens in it, but it was still just… enjoyable. (And angry.) The next, “Radishes”, was odd, but still fun, and actually a bit touching. Two young women are walking around and discover a hidden basket of magic food. When they eat different things, bits of magic occur – like the apples make them levitate. The radishes cause a second version of themselves to momentarily appear. (Let’s get outta here.) The third story was the longest, and my favorite of the bunch. “Diane’s Electric Tongue” takes place in a world where robots are more advanced and common than our own. The story focuses on Diane and her relationship with her robot, Harbor, along with her relationship with her group of friends and her ex. I could have easily read an entire novel about this storyline. (I will be with her until she doesn’t want me anymore.) “The Big Burning House” was the shortest, and in my opinion the weakest of the bunch. It was just a podcast of two friends talking about a tv series they were obsessed with. The artwork was impressive, as always, and the dialogue was realistic enough, but, like most podcasts out there, I just found what the characters were talking about boring, and the story didn’t really go anywhere. Or maybe I just missed the point of it? (But was she strong enough not to drown?) The final story, “Please Sleep Over” was a bit confusing and a bit creepy. Two young women friends are staying at the summer home of one of their parents, out in the woods. While one of them is showering up, a neighbor comes in and starts making small talk, asking if they remember certain things from the past. She doesn’t, but doesn’t want to be rude. Near the end of the story, yet another person makes their way into the house. It would have been nice to have some resolution, but, again, the artwork was really great. (I can see her.)

39. The Grownup by Gillian Flynn – a short story that I read in just under an hour (it’s only 64 pages long) that, despite being so brief managed to contain several twists and turns that thoroughly entertained. (Nothing to worry about at all.)

40. Come Again by Nate Powell – graphic novel about a commune in Arkansas in the 70s. This was confusing and obtuse and I didn’t really like it very much. (Will you need to?)

41. Dry by Neal Shusterman and Jarrod Shusterman – a Young Adult dystopian novel…except it’s set in the very near future, and it’s semi-plausible (maybe even inevitable?) – Southern California’s residents run out of water. Completely. It doesn’t go well after that. Concept was okay, but, man, oh, man, did I I hate nearly every. Single. Character. (with the possible exception of Kingston, the dog) I get they’re all teens (or younger), and they’re in a situation way over their heads, but, eh. I just didn’t *like* anyone, and was, honestly, kind of hoping it would end poorly for all of them. Granted, it was a YA novel, so it was extremely unlikely that it would have gone that way, but I think if it HAD… I might have had more respect for it as a story. (And a wellspring of all the things that still might be.)

42. Letter 44 Volume III: Dark Matter by Charles Soule – it’s been a while since I had read volumes 1 and 2, so I’d forgotten a lot of what had led up to this, which made getting back into the story a little difficult. Plus… a lot of the pacing felt like ..well, sort of like just spinning wheels. Even with World War 3 going on in the background, the story was just …there. I will probably be completing the series, just to find out what it’s all building toward, but I’m not super motivated to do it at this point. Hopefully it picks up the pace soon; as it ended with a bit of a cliffhanger, I suspect/hope that it will in the next volume. (I would like to meet with the President.)

43. He-Man/Thundercats by Rob David – a graphic novel crossover between He-Man and the Masters of the Universe and the Thundercats properties. This started off pretty strong – the artwork is unique – not utilizing either cartoon from the 80s – but the novelty wore off pretty quickly when I realized that there were no real stakes (nobody was going to be killed off (at least permanently) or have any real growth). This was the equivalent of when I was a young kid playing with my action figures and having them battle one another. Great fun when I was 10, not quite as enjoyable at 43. (By the power of Greyskull!)

44. Phoebe and Her Unicorn in Unicorn Theater by Dana Simpson – I greatly enjoyed the Phoebe and Her Unicorn stand alone comics. Those sometimes have arcs that extend over several weeks, but are for the most part self-contained and just there as jokes. This was a graphic novel with a plot through the entire thing, and …it wasn’t quite as enjoyable. There wasn’t a lot of the humor that the normal three panel strips have, and since I haven’t read any of the previous novels (apparently there have abeen a few other graphic novel outings like this one) some of the continuation was lost on me. (Nothing that really hindered the enjoyment of the novel – just a few new characters that I’d never seen before, really.) It was still very beautiful and bright and charming, just wasn’t as great as the original-flavor Phoebe strips are. (Then consider this a twist ending.)

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