Sunday, July 02, 2023

Everything I Read in June, 2023 (in brief)


74. The Bright Side of Disaster by Katherine Center - Katherine Center's debut is about a pregnant woman who is engaged to her unborn child's father. When he abandons her and a good-looking neighbor steps in to help, Jenny realizes what she was missing in a relationship. But, is she too stung to move on to a new romance? Sweet, predictable romance feels secondary to the story of pregnancy and single motherhood but I loved the romance so much that I plucked the book off my stationary bike to rush through it. Apart from the focus on being a new mother (which I confess bored me a bit), my only complaint is that Jenny got a lot of help financially and was able to stay home on her own with no job. Maybe the author thought adding a financial struggle would be too much but that aspect felt unrealistic to me. Most single mothers have finances to deal with as well as the ordinary stresses of new parenthood. 

75. Did I Ever Tell You This? by Sam Neill - I ordered Sam Neill's new memoir before Book Depository was shut down because I've been following him on Instagram for some time @samneilltheprop and find him charming and full of joy. Did I Ever Tell You This? was written during the pandemic, as Neill was going through chemotherapy, and while he occasionally mentions realizing that he might not survive his illness, the book is generally an upbeat, chatty, and warm book of anecdotes, mostly about growing up, the joys of work, farming, and making his own wine, and his love of people and animals. He's a good storyteller and I kept turning to tell my husband anecdotes from the book, so he finally went off to fetch The Dish, my all-time favorite movie, which just happens to star Sam Neill. It worked if he was trying to shut me up. I highly recommend both the book and the movie. 

76. The Dead of the Night (Tomorrow series #2) by John Marsden - The second in the Tomorrow series, which begins with Tomorrow, When the War Began, has the remaining teenagers angry and hurting after their friend Corrie was injured and Kevin never returned from taking her to town for help. After a month recovering, Ellie suggests that they go in the other direction from their camping spot in a place known as Hell. They leave one of their band behind to feed the animals and find a large group of people who call themselves Harvey's Heroes. While they begin to settle in, they want to go back to bring their friend Chris, in spite of the fact that the males are separated from the females and the chores are also divided in a sexist way. But, when the "heroes" go on a mission and it ends in tragedy, they're forced to run for their lives. Back in Hell, they find that Chris is missing. And, then they get tired of recovering, again, and go on a mission in the dead of the night. So good. I love this series and I'm glad I bought the boxed set for rereading.

77. The Shadow Hero (The Green Turtle Chronicles #1) by Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Lieu - A remake by graphic novelist Gene Luen Yang of a story first told in a set of 5 comic books at the dawn of their popularity, The Shadow Hero tells the story of the Green Turtle, a teenager whose father runs a grocery store in their city's Chinatown district. When Hank's mother is saved by a superhero, she decides her son must become a superhero, as well. But, there's more to being a superhero than a fancy costume. After his first attempt at saving the day ends in disaster, Hank is trained to fight by his uncle and sets out to end the corruption that has his family paying a crime family to stay in business. I think this is my 5th graphic novel by Yang and I love his sense of humor. Also, very cool that he found the first Asian superhero and updated the story. 

78. The Expanse: Origins by James S. A. Corey et al. - A graphic novel tie-in to the television series, The Expanse: Origins tells the backstories of the main cast of characters. Each had some sort of traumatic experience that led them all to end up together on the Rocinante. While not the greatest graphic novel, I'd like to read the second in the Expanse series, soon, and it was a good refresher course on the characters as they've faded a bit from my memory since I read the first in the series. 

79. The Masterful Cat is Depressed Again, Today (#1) by Hitsuji Yamada -  A manga that's not at all what it sounds like! The so-called "Masterful Cat", Yukichi, is an oversized cat who walks on two legs, cooks, cleans, and goes grocery shopping. Saku took him in as a kitten and the kitten was horrified by her sloppy apartment and tendency to over drink. So as he grew larger, Yukichi set about putting Saku's life in order. Now, the cat does most of the cooking, including preparing delicious lunches for Saku. When Saku finds out her boss has seen her messy apartment in the past, she is utterly horrified. He knows she has a cat. Has he seen the size of Yukichi? How will she keep people from finding out her cat is so unusual and that her life isn't at all what they believe? Very entertaining! I may continue with this series. It's ridiculous and delightful. 

80. The Arrival by Shaun Tan - Shaun Tan blows my mind every time. A beautiful, wordless story about a man who escapes his home during a dark time but must leave his family behind. In his new country, he seeks a place to stay and a job and is aided by the kindness of strangers. Heartwarming and gorgeous.

81. The Adventures of Little Tiger by Marielle Sohier - A throwback read . . . way back. This is probably one of the first chapter books I owned, a small book that's 249 pages and heavily illustrated. Little Tiger is a cheerful little guy who loves color. He sets out to bring the beauty of the outdoors inside by painting his walls a cheery sunflower yellow. From there, the story follows Little Tiger visiting with friends, taking a ride on the back of an alligator, going on a submarine ride, flying a helicopter, vacationing in Venice, visiting the mountains and the North Pole, and returning home (among other adventures). It's a crazy "one thing leads to another" type of story in which you never know where the main character is going to end up next. But, it's the illustrations that really take me back. I still love it. The Adventures of Little Tiger is a wild ride and extremely colorful. 

82. The Secret Life of Albert Entwistle by Matt Cain - Albert is about to turn 65. For 50 years, he's been a postal worker and lived in his family home after the love of his life said he never wanted to see Albert again. At the time, being gay was illegal in Britain. But, now, as he's on the verge of retirement, Albert's decided it's time for a change. To begin with, he reaches out and becomes fast friends with a single mother, Nicole, and her daughter. Nicole is also an outcast as a black single mum in a new town, but she's working hard to become self-supporting. She has been abandoned by the father of her child and recently fallen for a man whose parents think he could do better. As Nicole encourages Albert to come out of the closet and chase his dreams, Albert encourages Nicole to be forthright in her own relationship. There were some scenes I found uncomfortable but this is the sweetest book. I lost track of how many times it brought me to tears. And, I think the author did a fantastic job of showing that we're all humans and in this together. I would love to read more by Matt Cain. 

83. Firefly: The Unification War, Part One by Greg Oak, Dan McDaid, and Marcelo Costa - The first in a series based on the Firefly television show. When Serenity is attacked, the crew has no choice but to land on the closest planet. They need money to replace their engine, so they go in search of jobs. There, they find a religious faction that needs protection from bandits. Meanwhile, the Unificators, the people who shot Serenity's engine, are hunting Mal and ZoĆ«, whom they consider war criminals. From the cover: "War can make villains of even the best men, and Mal's quest for redemption will put him at odds with his own crew, forcing him to make a choice: fix the past or fight for the future." Nicely stated. I thought it was a fun graphic novel and I'm glad I have two more of them, although I think there are quite a few more in the series (10 or 12). 

84. Heartstopper, Vol. 1 by Alice Oseman - Another first in a series! I started a lot of new graphic novels, this month. Heartstopper is a perfect example of why LGBTQ books need to stay on school shelves, especially if they're as sweet and thoughtful as this graphic novel. Charlie is openly gay after being outed a couple years prior to the beginning of the story (not by choice). He's very smart and a quick runner so when Nick sees him running, he tells Charlie there are some openings on the rugby team and invites him to come to practice. Nick is a big, athletic guy with a lot more confidence than Charlie but as their friendship develops, Nick begins to realize that he likes Charlie a bit more than he thought possible. A seriously sweet romance that does not go beyond kissing and does a great job of showing how people come to the realization of their sexuality at different ages and stages. Charlie knows he's gay; Nick is figuring himself out. I think any teenager can relate to the emotions, confusion, and general angst of this story, regardless of their orientation. 

What a month. I began in such a terrible reading slump that I had only read three books by the three-week mark. To try to shake myself out of it, I started reading a bunch of graphic novels, a manga, a children's book from my childhood, a wordless book. The easy reading finally did the trick and I ended the month content with what I'd read, although most of my books read didn't involve a whole lot of words. 

The rams are a reference to Sam Neill, by the way, as he was in a movie entitled Rams. We had a brief journey into the world of Sam Neill films, including Rams, after I finished Did I Ever Tell You This? but, unfortunately, it didn't last long because the spouse was disinterested and I usually watch TV only in the evenings, so compromise is necessary. At any rate, this was the typical month of "liked or loved everything" and while I did abandon one book at the first of the month, when I could barely stay awake to read and couldn't concentrate when I did, that book was just fine after I emerged from my reading slump and is my first finished book for July. Come back at the end of the month and I'll tell you all about it. 

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  1. Arrival is my favorite of all the Shaun Tan books I've read. And I totally agree with you on Heartstopper. My non-binary daughter LOVES this series. It is so sweet and doesn't get too um, graphic with intimacy but instead is just about two people growing into who they are and becoming more than friends. (I didn't actually read it but flipped through before she started the series, because some of them ARE a bit too graphic for a twelve-year-old IMHO. However I don't outright censor her from reading those, just tell her to put them on a list for when she's older. As in, high school).

    1. Isn't Arrival mind-blowing? He has so much talent and skill at showing expression. No words necessary at all.

      I agree with you 100% about Heartstopper. I appreciate it for the fact that the affection is (so far -- I just read #2) G-rated and it focuses a lot on the difficulty of finding yourself as a person who isn't cisgender and heterosexual. I only have one more from the series and I'm moving into another book-buying ban so I won't be able to say if it remains as sweet and innocent as it has for long, but I think the fact that the relationship is just sweet and goofy and as real as any other romantic high school relationship is refreshing. Just an FYI, the only book I've read that I thought went too far graphically (and wasn't even technically accurate, in many cases) was This Book is Gay. I would tell my kid to avoid that one at any age or read it with them and tell them where it's wrong but it's graphic enough to be . . . gross. Blecch.


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