April 25, 2016

Recent Reads

36. Bats of the Republic: An Illuminated Novel
This book is a physically beautiful object, and the author makes creative use of an assortment of documents, books within books, maps, notes, illustrations, and more to tell two stories set about 300 years apart. The only problem is that all the beautiful packaging is only skin deep. The writing is not compelling, the characters are uninteresting, and while I enjoyed the setting of stories within stories, and how it is tough to tell which is the present time, and how time folds back on itself, I did not care one whit about the characters and their issues, and found this one a bit of a slog to get through. Too bad really, because this is a physically lovely object, and for that fact alone it gets an additional star. Rating: 2 stars.

37. Ōoku: The Inner Chambers, Volume 8
The thing about this wonderful manga series, is that 8 volumes in, I am still loving the complexity of the story telling. There are several interesting plot lines in this one, and I so felt for Ieshige. How awful to be the "oafish" older daughter in a world that values outward beauty, and to have a beautiful mother and sister to boot. I was rooting for her all the way, though she is not as good a leader as her Mother, but then, who could really match Yoshimune? Interesting gender role reversals continue to highlight some of the ridiculous norms that are still accepted in our times. Can't wait to see what happens next. Rating: 4 stars.

38. Self-Portrait as Your Traitor
"Illustrated essays and visual poems are part philosophy, part art, part deeply personal memoir exposing the universal triumphs and tribulations of being human."

Well, color me confused. This book made the Brain Pickings' Best Books of 2013, and I for one don't get it at all. I did like the hand drawn lettering, and some of the ways the author plays with text as art, but honestly, this one left me shaking my head. Not for me. Rating: 1 star.

39. Meanwhile in San Francisco: The City in its Own Words
I love books like this and wish there was one for every city. The thing about travel guides is that while they are chockful of information, they are often rather antiseptic as well, and they have to be I guess. In this delightful book, the author captures a sample of the people and neighborhoods of San Francisco, using gorgeous pen and watercolor illustrations, and snippets of dreams. Do not expect an all encompassing guide to the city, but if you are in the mood for a whimsical travelogue, give this one a try. Rating: 4 stars.

40. Nimona
Nimona is a young shapeshifter, who badly wants to be the sidekick of an evil lord, aka Lord Ballister Blackheart. They team up on a mission against the Institution of Law Enforcement, and the shining hero, Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin. The names alone are worth the price of admission.

This a fun graphic novel about the battles between the two sides, and lots of death and mayhem ensue. I quite liked the relationship between Blackheart and Goldenloin, and was pleasantly surprised at how Nimona does not play the typical girl tropes. The art is colorful and sketchy, and while I smiled at various moments, I did not love this one as much as I expected to. As an aside, my 11 year old nephew read it through in a couple of sittings, and enjoyed it. Rating: 3 stars.

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