Thursday, March 4, 2010

Book Reviews for January and February

Normally I just do a list of books I've read at the end of each year, but this time I'm going to do it every month or two, and do some short reviews - that way something may be more intriguing than just a title.

So far I've read a lot of graphic novels and a few other books, but some great ones, all the same.


1. I am Neurotic (and so are you) - Liana Kong

This is just a humour book, and it's based on a blog. There's some pretty funny confessions in it, as well as photos that illustrate them. I just read this quickly at work.

2. The Lagoon - Lilli Carre

A strange, short graphic novel involving nocturnal singing from a creature living in a lagoon, and a young girl that lives with her parents and grandfather. I enjoyed it a lot. Another book I read at work (sensing a theme, here?)

3. The Ringing Cedars of Russia - Vladimir Megre

This is the second book in the Ringing Cedars series (also known as the Anastasia series) - I read the first one in 2008, so it's taken me a while to continue, but I am hooked on them. The premise for the series (and you can read it as non-fiction or as fiction - it sort of has to be read first, then you decide for yourself whether or not you believe it's true) is that the author, Vladimir, has come into contact with a Siberian recluse (Anastasia) who lives in the woods, and she teaches him different ways of life. He in turn writes books for her to get her message out.

These are powerful books, if you keep an open mind. I don't agree or believe 100% of what I read, but most of it makes perfect sense. The only time I have a hard time reading it is the use of the word "God" even though I know it's not meant in a Christian sense.

This particular volume is mostly about what happened to Vladimir after returning to his normal life and about writing the books, and more about what he learned with Anastasia in the taiga, when he first encountered her. It also talks about dolmens, stone tombs where people bury themselves alive in order to perserve their knowledge/spirit so that future generations can come to them for information. Weird stuff.

I found out about these books through the raw food community, where they are quite popular. If you want to know about them, go here. I'm currently reading book 4.

4. Big Baby - Charles Burns

Vivid black and white comics by a great artist. This is a compilation of comics about the character "Big Baby" (Tony) and his weird adventures in suburbia - including backyard burials and summer camp murders. I really liked these - I also love Black Hole, which is a huge graphic novel. Really macabre stuff.

5. The Fir Tree - Hans Christian Andersen - Illustrated by Lilli Carre

Another graphic novel I read at work - an illustrated fable. Depressing as hell! It was really heart-breaking in that simple, beautiful, but heart-wrenching way.

6. The Last Lonely Saturday - Jordan Crane

I read this in about 2 minutes at the library - a super cute but sad comic about an old man mourning his wife. There are really no words in this comic, but it is emotive just from the drawings.

7. Unlikely - Jeffrey Brown

Fantastic!! I LOVE this little book, so much that I read everything else I could find by Jeffrey Brown right afterwards. Yet another book I read at work, ha. This one is about one of Jeff's relationships and the loss of his virginity, when he's 24. The whole book is full of emotion, awkwardness, and simple but effective illustrations. I really recommend his books, they are very telling and honest.

8. Clumsy - Jeffrey Brown

This one is about Jeff's long-distance relationship. Also great.

9. Every Girl is the End of the World For Me - Jeffrey Brown

Day-by-day chronicle of Jeff's interactions with 5 different girls, and general life things, as well. Good, but not AS good as the others.

10. The Little Snow Bear - Flavia and Lisa Weedn

A kids' book lent to me by my roommate. A lonely little bear makes himself a friend out of snow, who then disappears every spring. Really sad, but sweet.

11. Funny Mishapen Body - Jeffrey Brown

Accounts of different times in his life - dealing with Crohn's disease, harsh critiques at art college, working at a wooden-shoe factory, partying and drinking - these make up the bulk of the book. Nothing really to do with girls, this time. Enjoyable work reading.

12. Escape from "Special" - Miss Lasko-Gross

A "coming-of-age" sort of book, this is mostly made up of 1-2 page stories that are semi-autobiographical, about Melissa and her childhood and early teen years. Really good.

13. Little Things - Jeffrey Brown

This one is random stories - they're good but there's no real order to them, which is a bit confusing. I still enjoyed it. And read it at work.

14. The Road - Cormac McCarthy

The first non-graphic novel of the year! I'd been meaning to read this one for a while and since seeing the movie, I was finally inspired to pick it up. The writing is sparse but it works well with the material - the story is dismal, and the writing reflects it. There is also no quotation marks for dialogue, which was strange, but it worked. There's some very disturbing parts, but mostly it is the story of a father and son trying to survive in a world where there is really NOTHING left, but there is an underlying hope that there MIGHT be something, if they keep moving. Completely excellent, and a good reminder of a future that is possible, if we don't change what we're doing.

15. A Mess of Everything - Miss Lasko-Gross

GOD I loved this! I guess it's because I related to it so much. This was the graphic novel account of my teenage years, more or less (that and another book called Awkward and Definition by Ariel Schrag). This time around she uses some colour in her drawings, and the angst is so great! FUCKING AWESOME, one of my favourites now, for sure. It's the continuation of Escape from "Special" and follows the character of Melissa, who is based on the author.

16. That Salty Air - Tim Sievert

Short graphic novel about a fisherman who's mother drowns. He then decides the sea is his enemy, and sets out to teach it a lesson. Really good.

17. Too Cool to Be Forgotten - Alex Robinson

This book was hilarious. A man gets hypnotized to quit smoking, but ends up reliving his high school years (which lead him back to when and why he began smoking, so he can never start smoking to begin with) - this book was great because it allows the main character to do something everyone wants - to relive moments of their past and do what they really wanted to do, because there was nothing to fear in the first place.

18. The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold

Another novel I'd had on my shelf for years and finally picked up. I wanted to see the movie, and decided I wanted to read the book FIRST, so I did. After the first few pages it's easy to see why this book has become so popular - it's really wonderfully written, a rich tapestry of characters, emotion, and fantasy. Written from the perspective of a murdered girl in her own personal heaven, watching her family trying to solve her murder. The movie wasn't nearly as good. The book is phenomenal.


1. Gemma Bovery - Posy Simmonds

I wasn't sure if I was going to like this one when I started reading it, but I ended up loving it. The story is told from the perspective of a baker in France, about his neighbour Gemma Bovery, and all the events leading to her death (which is how the book begins). Another graphic novel, but it's more like an illustrated story. Recommended, for sure.

2. The Waters and the Wild - Francesca Lia Block

I haven't read a book by FLB in a while - this one was okay but nothing like her older works. It was still a nice story but too simplistic for me. I still love the magic she weaves into her words but this one left me wanting more.

3. The Acme Novelty Library Vol. 18 - Chris Ware

Really excellent. I picked it up randomly at the library. This volume is about a woman missing half a leg. The stories convey a deep loneliness. Lots of panels are just of day-to-day happenings, like working in a flower shop, but the deeper stories, like her time as a nanny, and her one-and-only relationship, as well as her pregnancy and abortion, are really wonderfully portrayed.

4. The Space of Love - Vladimir Megre

Book 3 of the Ringing Cedars series. Vladimir eventually finds his way back into the taiga to find Anastasia. At first the men who take him down the river try and thwart his attempts to find her, as they have had interesting experiences with other people attempting to do the same (as well as capture her for research purposes), as well as horrifying experiences for themselves. But one man recognizes him, and eventually Vladimir does come into contact with Anastasia again. This volume he is introduced to his small son, who Anastasia has been raising in the taiga on her own, with wild animals.
There is also lots about a school in Russia which is built and maintained by children and teenagers, who teach themselves, with no supervision, and it's all free. There are pictures of this school. Astounding stuff! I wish all schools were like this. Check it out!


This is what I've read up until March. I have several books going at once which is why I tend to read so many graphic novels. They're easy to read at work and on the bus. I have a hard time concentrating on novels and non-fiction when I'm around other people or there is noise (bus) so tend to read those things at other times. Plus I read a ton of articles on a daily basis, otherwise this list would be way longer! Hehe.

1 comment:

  1. Ah! I very nearly bought the 'I'm neurotic and so are you' book for my BFF, but I was afraid it would send the wrong message :D