Reading journal 2: pictures and lists

I am not obsessive about lists. There are downsides to this. It is a truth universally acknowledged that not much can rival the satisfaction of crossing a finished task off a ‘to do’ list. Equal is the disappointment of realising you have made a really inadequate list, which did not include the task you have just finished, and ipso facto there is no crossing out to be done.

Nevertheless, I’m persevering with my reading lists in hindsight. By this I mean I am grouping together the stuff I’ve read so far this year, keeping count for my annual tally, but reviewing like with like. This will, hopefully, make it easier for other readers to spot the recommendations of books they would be interested in trying.

So the theme for this set is books with pictures (which are graphic novels, rather than children’s picture books… having recently been traumatised by Sweetie-Pie the hamster I am saying no more about those accursed books) and a YA book with a lot of lists. Let’s go:

#7Sandcastle cover Sandcastle GN by Frederik Peeters and Pierre Oscar Levy (Read 08/01/2015) I read a review of this graphic novel that praised its surreal premise and existential pondering. So, I had to read it. I’m still unsure what to make of it. The characters arrive at a beach and, over the course of a day, realise that time is passing at an unnatural, accelerated rate. They find they cannot escape, they try to work out what is happening, but don’t have enough information to know. And, ultimately, it doesn’t matter. It’s a disturbing story, frustrating in its resolution, but elegantly drawn and thought-provoking. (Just so you know, it includes depictions of nudity, sex and violence.)

#8The adventures of Superhero Girl cover The Adventures of Superhero Girl GN by Faith Erin Hicks (Read 10/01/2015) Sophie-anna has already reviewed this engaging collection of comic strips that deal with an everyday hero. I liked Superhero Girl, despite (or perhaps because of) my usual aversion to caped crusaders.

#9Fortunately, the Milk cover Fortunately, The Milk by Neil Gaiman (Read 13/01/2015) “Mum’s away, Dad’s in charge. There’s no milk.” This is a likable little story, ostensibly aimed at younger readers, of the highly dubious adventure experienced by the narrator on his way back to the family home, from the corner store, with a carton of milk. Chris Riddell’s illustrations are fantastic and create a lot of the humour by revealing the everyday items inspiring the narrator to embellish his tale and amuse his children. Are kids going to get that the Dad is drawn to look like Gaiman, or that the Wumpires are based on movie cliches, including the sullen teen Twilightesque vampires? Probably not. But they may not care, and it is a good story to introduce readers aged around 9 to 12, to some of the fun narrative possibilities of time travel, which should open them up to an amazing range of excellent science fiction and fantasy novels.

#10Top Ten Clues You’re Clueless cover Top Ten Clues You’re Clueless by Liz Czukas (Read 1/02/2015) The Breakfast Club was released at the start of my senior year of high school. In some sort of temporal distortion of the space/time continuum that that was almost 30 years ago. Obviously that can’t be right, but regardless, when I saw a review that said this YA book is reminiscent of that movie, I thought I’d try it for the nostalgia hit. It’s good. Cute and fluffy in parts, but good, and at least the romance is an understated teen crush, rather than a breathless one-true-love-and-he’s-so-hot-I-could-die melodrama. (Can you tell that’s not my favourite YA narrative? Actually, just not my favourite kind of thing in any genre or medium. Anywho….) The diverse characters are a group of teens working a busy Christmas Eve at a suburban supermarket. They are kept back at the end of the day by the manager, because they have been accused of stealing the money from the charity box at the front of store. Chloe, the nerdy narrator, self-consciously tries to Nancy Drew a solution. The dynamic and dialogue between the six teens is well-written, and Chloe’s tendency to make lists is an excellent source of humour. Plus, anyone who’s ever worked in retail will be able to relate to some of the weirder lists and the games the teens play to stave off boredom in their jobs. I enjoyed it.

#11American Vampire 6 cover American Vampire #6 GN by Scott Snyder (Read 2/02/2015) This is an anthology of tales, where writers and artists of other graphic novels get to play in the American Vampire sandpit. I’m sure it was loads of fun for them. I was, pretty much, bored by the whole issue. It seemed self-indulgent and gratuitous, with more of a focus on the violent capacity of vampires than on any sort of plot. Sorry, I can’t even really be bothered to review it properly.

#12Murder Mysteries cover Murder Mysteries GN by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by P. Craig Russell (Read 26/02/2015) When I was toodling about in the catalogue, having borrowed the abovementioned FTM, I put a hold on a number of titles by Neil Gaiman that I had somehow neglected to read. One of them was this graphic novel illustrated by the phenomenally talented P. Craig Russell. It’s told as a story within a story, partly in LA in the 80s or 90s, and mostly in Heaven with the angel of vengeance investigating the first death, and as it turns out, the first murder. It’s … interesting. I was irritated by the human narrator (which was a good thing, really) but the angel side of things was really well played. It’s a good story to get you pondering on omniscience and predeterminism.

And there’s another six reviews: ranty, brief, enthusiastic, distracted or otherwise.

I’ll be back with a whole swag more reviews of fabulous, faulty, fanciful or failed fantasy novels very soon.  Don’t worry, I’ve read them… I just have to stop reading more books for long enough to review them.

Curses! The flaw in the plan is revealed!