September 2017 Wrap-Up

Ahhhhh, it’s FINALLY October! Fall has arrived, and it is unquestionably the best time of the year. Even in Texas, where it’s still seventh circle of hell level hot, I cannot help but be excited about the coming months. But this post is about September, otherwise known around these parts as, “August”, because the weather is still unbearable, the leaves do not change, and we don’t start wearing sweaters until at least November.

September was a pretty average month for reading, totaling out at 9 books completed. There was a whole lot going on at work and at home last month always, so over half of my reading was accomplished through audio books, plus two graphic novels, and two print.

I absolutely loved The Wolf Road and Saga, which I’ve linked my reviews to here. Some of my other favorites from the month were…

Screen Shot 2017-10-05 at 9.25.35 PM.pngCinder (Book 1 of the Lunar Chronicles) is quite possibly the coolest retelling of Cinderella that I’ve ever read. I was quite smitten with Geekerella, which I read earlier this year, but Cinder spoke to the even geekier, scifi loving parts of my brain. In Meyer’s version, Cinderella is a cyborg who lives in a futuristic city known as New Beijing. There are robots, handsome emperors, a terrifying plague with no known cure, and deep rooted tensions with the race of beings that now live on the moon. SO. MUCH. FUN. I listed to the audio version, and Rebecca Soler did an amazing job as always.

 

Screen Shot 2017-10-05 at 9.25.59 PMThe Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue was another audio read. I absolutely fell in love with this story from page one. Percy and Monty have a sweet, tender, playful, slow burn of a love story. There are highway robberies, pirates, hidden passages in sinking islands, and so much more. While being light and fun, the book also touched on more serious topics like family expectation and dysfunction, abuse, and finding your own path in life. Mackenzi Lee is one of my new favorite authors, and I cannot wait to see what she comes out with next.

 

 

Screen Shot 2017-10-05 at 9.25.46 PMI initially downloaded Young Jane Young because I was waiting for my hold of Cress (Book 3 of the Lunar Chronicles) to come through. I had read The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry and really enjoyed it, so I figured I’d give this one a shot and I was not disappointed. While it’s not the best or most exciting book I’ve ever read, it was fun and compelling, and entertaining. Young Jane Young tells the story of Aviva Grossman, a young intern who has an illicit affair with the congressman whose campaign she is working for. The affair comes to light, makes national news, and her reputation, and eventually her life, are utterly destroyed. Rather that admit defeat, Aviva regains control of the situation and makes a new life for herself. The book is told in several parts, each from a different point of view. My favorite is the part told from her daughter’s perspective, as it’s written entirely in the form of (hilarious) emails to her overseas pen pal. This is the book that surprised me the most this month, based on how much I enjoyed it.

The whole line up….

 

Stardust –  4 crowns

Saga Volume 6 – 5 crowns

Saga Volume 7 – 4 crowns

The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue – 5 crowns

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo – 4 crowns

Cinder – 5 crowns

The Wolf Road – 5 crowns

Scarlet – 4 crowns

Young Jane Young – 4 crowns

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Saga Vol 1-7 – Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples

 

Publisher: Image Comics

Publication Date: October 10th, 2012 to April 4th 2017

Synopsis:

When two soldiers from opposite sides of a never-ending galactic war fall in love, they risk everything to bring a fragile new life into a dangerous old universe. From New York Times bestselling writer Brian K. Vaughan (Y: The Last Man, Ex Machina) and critically acclaimed artist Fiona Staples (Mystery Society, North 40), Saga is the sweeping tale of one young family fighting to find their place in the worlds. Fantasy and science fiction are wed like never before in this sexy, subversive drama for adults.

Before a couple of weeks ago, my entire experience regarding comics consisted of religiously picking up Archie comics from the grocery store as a kid and rereading the Calvin and Hobbes books like it was my job. Both of these obsessions happened over two decades ago, so I was a bit uncertain on whether or not I would review Saga when I initially picked it up. Fast forward to today, just a few hours after finishing volume 7, and that uncertainty just seems silly. I have SO MUCH to say about this series, and I don’t think I could shut up about it even if I wanted to.

Full of Fiona Staples’ breathtakingly beautiful art, Saga is part space opera, part fantasy, with a whole lot of romance and family drama. The cast of characters is wonderfully diverse, including, gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, non binary, and POC characters.  There is a lot of nudity and sex, which I am SO HERE FOR, as well as graphic depictions of violence. I realize this may not be everyone’s bag so it’s worth calling out.

Saga tells the story of Marko and Alana, soldiers from opposite sides of a long fought intergalactic war. There is an extensive history of hate and prejudice between the two races (the wings and the moonies), when Marko is captured as a POW by the army that Alana is fighting for. After a series of events (that I won’t spoil for you here), the two fall in love and escape together, intent on living their lives in as much peace as they can find.  The entire series is narrated by their daughter, Hazel, and the first volume literally opens with her birth. Hazel’s birth is the catalyst for the rest of the story, as we follow two parents wiling to do anything to keep her safe, and carve out a life they can live together despite the constant violence happening around them.

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You guys. After this truly incredible, addictive, and immersive reading experience, I fully intend on making graphic novels a habit again. And while I may read hundreds more, I have no doubt that Saga will stay on my top favorites list for all time. Everything about this story is designed to draw the reader in and keep them as a willing captive until the very end. The world building is jaw dropping and full of lush details that I stopped to admire even while wanting to zip ahead though the rest of the story. Brian K Vaughan writes whip smart, tender, and downright hilarious dialogue and characters that I was invested in from the first panel.

I love the way there are multiple story lines going on at once that swap every couple of pages. Even though I couldn’t wait to find out what was happening to one set of characters, I immediately put them to the back of my mind to focus on the immediacy of what was happening to the rest. I cared about them all that much. There wasn’t a single arc that felt boring or less important than the rest. The sheer number of alien species and worlds that Staples creates is astounding. I was delighted by the creativity and especially loved the robot race and the way the different classes and royal family were portrayed. It doesn’t seem fair that one person can hold so much in a singular imagination.

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Final Thoughts: I cannot recommend these enough. If you’re considering jumping into the world of comics, I think Saga is a great place to start, but prepare yourself for a serious hangover and a lengthy wait for the next installment. I’m fully invested now, and cannot wait to check out other work by both Vaughan and Staples as well as other graphic novel series. If you have any good ones to recommend, please please let me know!!

Rating: Screen Shot 2016-03-12 at 10.58.06 PM

Favorite Characters: Alana, Hazel, Klara, Lying Cat, Sophie, The Brand, Isabel, Barr

Memorable Quotes:

My name is Hazel. I started out as an idea, but I ended up something more. Not much more, to be honest. It’s not like I grow up to become some great war hero or any sort of all important savior… but thanks to these two, at least I get to grow old. Not everybody does. (Vol 1)

Cool. So glad I got to do all this in a towel. (Vol 2)

All good children’s stories are the same: young creature breaks rules, has incredible adventure, then returns home with the knowledge that aforementioned rules are there for a reason. Of course, the actual message to the careful reader is: break rules as often as you can, because who the hell doesn’t want to have an adventure? (Vol 3)

A lot of people who came into my family’s life looking like heroes ended up acting more like villains. (Vol 4)

Every relationship is an education. Each new person we welcome into our hearts is a chance to evolve into something radically different than we used to be. (Vol 5)

We’re all aliens to someone. Even among our own people, most of us still feel like complete foreigners from time to time. (Vol 6)

If a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, then a family is more like a rope. We’re lots of fragile little strands, and we survive by becoming hopelessly intertwined with each other. (Vol 7)

Rabbit Cake – Annie Hartnett

51VXza6M2kLPublisher: Blackstone Audio, Inc.

Publication Date: March 7th, 2017

Listening Length: 7 hours and 7 minutes

From the Jacket:

Elvis Babbitt has a head for the facts: she knows science proves yellow is the happiest color, she knows a healthy male giraffe weighs about 3,000 pounds, and she knows that the naked mole rat is the longest living rodent. She knows she should plan to grieve her mother, who has recently drowned while sleepwalking, for exactly eighteen months. But there are things Elvis doesn’t yet know―like how to keep her sister Lizzie from poisoning herself while sleep-eating or why her father has started wearing her mother’s silk bathrobe around the house. Elvis investigates the strange circumstances of her mother’s death and finds comfort, if not answers, in the people (and animals) of Freedom, Alabama. As hilarious a storyteller as she is heartbreakingly honest, Elvis is a truly original voice in this exploration of grief, family, and the endurance of humor after loss.

Rabbit Cake is a coming of age story about loss and grief, full of humor and quirky characters. Despite the dark subject matter, I found myself giggling out loud and shaking my head in disbelief as I read about the crazy antics of Elvis and her family. This has been compared with Where’d You Go Bernadette, a personal favorite of mine.  And while it’s not quite as much fun as Bernadette, I soon found myself both understanding and agreeing with the comparison.  It was also very reminiscent of Ginny Moon, and I think that is because of the young age of the narrator and the innocent and analytical filter through which she views the world.

Elvis Babbitt is living a relatively normal, happy life in Alabama with her two parents, who she gets along well with, and her older sister, Lizzie, who she is convinced hates her. At ten years old, she’s getting ready to start junior high, when her mother drowns unexpectedly while sleep walking. Elvis navigates through this loss over the next eighteen months, checking each week off of her grief chart as one crazy thing after another happens. Hartnett writes in a unique and beautiful voice, of a family trying to put itself back together in the wake of this unexpected loss.

While I think I would have loved this book in any form, I’m really glad I chose the audio version of this one. Katie Schorr delivers the narration in a simple and straightforward way that completely captures the essence of Elvis. At one point, through her voice, we’re listening to Elvis describe her father, walking around in her mother’s old silk bathrobe, her lipstick on his face, while having a conversation with a parrot who can imitate her mother’s voice. This book is a bag of cats and it’s just so much fun.

Final Thoughts: I cannot recommend Rabbit Cake enough. It’s a quick read and enjoyable read that feels light despite the substantial subject matter. Annie Hartnett has one of the most original voices I’ve read in a while, and I cannot wait to see what she comes out with next. This is a truly terrific debut, and I have no doubt I’ll come back to it again. If you’ve read this, please let me know what you thought in the comments!

Rating: Screen Shot 2016-03-12 at 11.10.19 PM

Favorite Characters: It’s rare when I love all of the characters in a book, but for this one, I totally do. They are all zany and crazy and wonderful and oh so memorable.

Memorable Quotes:

It’s not easy to label people one illness or another. We’re all different combinations of crazy.