Monday, July 17, 2017

The Ethical Slut: A Guide to Infinite Sexual Possibilities

Written by: Dossie Easton and Catherine Liszt

First line: Many people dream of living an open sexual life—of having all the sex and love and friendship they want.

Why you should read this book: While directed to those who are interested in the underlying philosophy and real life practice of polyamory, this book is an intelligent read for anyone seeking a deeper understanding of human sexuality and human nature. Make no mistake: there are human beings right now who enjoy all the sex and love and friendship they want, without lying, cheating, or hurting others, meaning that, if this is what you want and you don't have it, the only thing holding you back is you, and The Ethical Slut could be the catalyst that helps you reach your happy destination. Admittedly, I read this book after many years of painfully figuring out all the details on my own, but it's a powerful resource no matter what stage of your sexual journey you've reached.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You don't like sex, love, or friendship.

The End

Written by: Lemony Snicket

First line: If you have ever peeled an onion, then you know that the first thin, papery layer reveals another thin, papery layer, and layer reveals another, and another , and before you know it you have hundreds of layers all over the kitchen table and thousands of tears in your eyes, sorry that you ever started peeling in the first place and wishing that you had left the onion alone to wither away on the shelf of your pantry while you went on with your life, even if that meant never again enjoying the complicated and overwhelming taste of this strange and bitter vegetable.

Why you should read this book: At long last, the chronicles of the strangely parabolic lives of the Beaudelaires draws to a close, as their childhoods resolve into a strange and ambiguous quasi-adulthood and the drama of the real world creeps into the island where they'd hope to find shelter. Violet, Sunny, and Klaus find some answers, some secrets from the past, and some more questions, and begin to articulate their understanding of human nature (or at least Lemony Snicket's view of human nature) while once again working against the odds in life or death situations. Metaphors made concrete, secret libraries, genetically modified apples, and the work of Phillip Larkin appear woven throughout the narrative as this series comes to its inevitable, and perhaps less unfortunate than might be expected, end.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You really can't jump in en media res here. Read the first 12 books in order before you crack this one open.

Monday, July 10, 2017

The Penultimate Peril

Written by: Lemony Snicket

First line: Certain people have said that the world is like a calm pond, and that anytime a person does even the smallest thing, it is as if a stone has dropped into the pond, spreading circles of ripples further and further out, until the entire world has been changed by one tiny action.

Why you should read this book: Having decided once and for all to take their destinies into their own hands and stop waiting and hoping for the adults around them to make the correct decisions, the Baudelaires are now free to misinterpret the data and make bad decisions on their on behalf, just like adults. At the heart of the VFD schism, holed up in the Hotel Denouement with dozens of volunteers and villains, the siblings struggle to discern friend from foe and serve a higher cause, with strikingly disappointing results. Old friends and enemies come together to prove that, even inside a library, nothing is knowable and even the very best of intentions can go awry.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You subscribe to the quaint notion that all villains should be easily recognized and without redeeming or attractive qualities, because the line between good and evil is vast and without confusion.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

American Vampire Volume 7

Written by: Scott Snyder, Rafael Albuquerque, Matías Bergara, Dave McCaig

First line: We can't stay much longer.

Why you should read this book: I don't know how I ended up reading volume seven in a series of which I hadn't read volumes 1-6, but I'm glad I did, because every time I think vampires are played out and nobody will ever have an original thought about vampires, someone does. I loved the concept of the evolution of vampires and the different species with different origins living together as refugees with a common and terrifying enemy, and the historical pieces of the tale, hinting at ancient evils buried in the earth. With no background on the world or the characters, I was still able to follow the narrative and find myself engaged by the plot in this refreshing and compelling volume.

Why you shouldn't read this book: Some creepy monsters and also a very creepy pregnancy.

Free Country: A Tale of the Children's Crusade

Written by: Neil Gaiman, Toby Litt, Rachel Pollack, Alisa Kwitney, Jamie Delano, et al.

First line: Later the newspapers were to describe Flaxdown as a fairytale village.

Why you should read this book: There is much to love in this complete story arc, which stands on its own as a complete graphic novel even as it works as something of a coda to the Sandman series. Bringing together old stories from history, mythology, and poetry—the Pied Piper legend, the actual Children's Crusade, "Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came,"—with other comic books and novels, Children's Crusade is a story of a two dead boy detectives searching for a village's worth of missing children, and stumbling upon another world, and the crazy machinations of the beings inhabiting it. Beauty and delight hide the endless cruelty and greed that exist in the universe, and the most outlandish fantasies are based on the truth of our world.

Why you shouldn't read this book: If you're wondering how two dead boys became detectives, you have to read the Sandman books first.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Before Watchmen: Minutemen/Silk Spectre

Written by: Darwyn Cooke and Amanda Conner

First line: You come into this world, and your point of view is narrow.

Why you should read this book: So far, it's definitely the strongest of the Before Watchmen books I've read, primarily due to the Minutemen section, which provides fresh stories about the original team, particularly Mothman and the Silhouette, that are barely hinted at in the original book. The section on Silk Spectre reflects the silly historical sensibilities of the other books in this series, with young Laurie refusing to fight crime on her mother's terms, and instead busting up an improbable ring of drug dealers in San Francisco in the 1960s, in order to stop the supply of a new variety of LSD that turns users into materialistic proto-Yuppie consumers. The entire book also gives us more details about Sally Jupiter that most readers have probably already figured out.

Why you shouldn't read this book: The Comedian, not being funny.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

The Grim Grotto

Written by: Lemony Snicket

First line: After a great deal of time examining oceans, investigating rainstorms, and staring very hard at several drinking fountains, the scientists of the world developed a fancy theory regarding how water is distributed around our planet, which they have named, "the water cycle."

Why you should read this book: The Baudelaires find themselves on board the submarine Queequeg, finally learning more about the V.F.D organization, their parents' involvement in the group, and the great schism. The concept of moral ambiguity is further examined, as are some deadly mushrooms, and the idea that blood is thicker than water. There is also a great deal of discussion of the water cycle.

Why you shouldn't read this book: Fear of drowning. Fear of the dark. Fear of enclosed spaces.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

The Slippery Slope

Written by: Lemony Snickett

First line: A man of my acquaintance once wrote a poem called "The Road Less Traveled," describing a journey he took through the woods along a path most travelers never used.

Why you should read this book: The themes of chaotic momentum coupled with utter loss of control swarm to the fore in a book that begins with children careening backward down a mountain in a caravan with no steering mechanism and no brake, and ends with children careering forward down a mountain on a toboggan with no steering mechanism and no brake. In between they do a fair amount of climbing, with some breaks for digging, preparing and eating raw food, and potentially making out. The Baudelaires are growing up on the road, making new enemies (and running into old ones) wherever they go.

Why you shouldn't read this book: I hardly think that "privacy" is a good excuse to skip over possibly the least unfortunate event in the series.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Alternate Histories of the World

Written by: Matthew Buchholz

First line: Tracing the evolution of humanity through the early ages has always been a difficult task.

Why you should read this book: In a world where painting monsters into thrift store landscapes has become de rigueur, fake news can change the course of history even when everyone knows it's fake, and anyone can learn Photoshop, this book practically had to happen. The author lays his own fantastic template of robots, aliens, and zombies, with the occasional dinosaur, over the boilerplate of history to create an almost plausible timeline in which Teddy Roosevelt was an early adapter of the jet pack and alliances with river monsters or martians have more than once turned the tide of battle in war. Funnier the more you know about world history as well as the history of speculative fiction, this silly but satisfying book is a delightful distraction from the actual history in which we currently live.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You go ballistic when anyone suggests that humans and dinosaurs ever coexisted.

The Book of Negroes

Written by: Lawrence Hill

First line: I seem to have trouble dying.

Why you should read this book: Wonderful and terrible, this brutal novel recounts the life of African girl Aminata Diallo, at a young age kidnapped by slave traders who murder her parents in front of her and burn her village to the ground, and then subjected to every indignity man can execute upon man. Framed by Aminata's work with British abolitionists at the very end of her life, this story is written in minute, painful, and accurate detail (I would liken it to Lolita in that the author use the most exquisite prose to illustrate the most disgusting atrocities) making the journey of a remarkable and resilient human more real than the most meticulous chapter in a history book. Intense, fast-paced, and incredible, this book forces the reader to examine every modern and dehumanizing assumption about race and gender to which they have ever been exposed.

Why you shouldn't read this book: It contains a decent percentage of all the most terrible things than can happen to a person.