Sunday, July 21, 2013

Wolverine and the X-Men, Volume 1

Written by: Jason Aaron

First line: I love it.

Why you should read this book: Since I've never followed Marvel, I have only the vaguest idea of why Wolverine is trying to open a new school for mutants, but it seems natural that when he does, the New York Department of Education, the Hellfire Club, and the very ground on which the school is built are determined to shut the operation down. Much smashing, teen angst, and untapped potential is in evidence as the first day of school sees intensive battle and subsequent days suggest that the school is still a powder keg. A fun volume of modern mutants and the struggles of growing up with explosive power.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You remember when Wolverine was cool.

Y The Last Man--Motherland

Written by: Brian K. Vaughan

First line: I'm coming for you Beth!

Why you should read this book: In China and in possession of Ampersand, who has successfully mated with another capuchin, ensuring the future of both monkeys and humans, Yorick prepares to go to France in search of Beth, until Dr. Mann's sudden illness requires that he postpone his plans to help save her life. In search for Dr. Mann's mother, the group learns a number of shocking truths concerning their assumptions about the gendercide, Yorick almost gets killed (again), and more people are stabbed with swords. The world seemed poised to recover from the tragedy, with or without the reintroduction of men, and Yorick can't help but find Beth in the next (and final) volume of the series.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You have Daddy issues (and you're a daddy).

Dancing Shoes

Written by: Noel Streatfeild

First line: The School of Dancing was in North London.

Why you should read this book: Another set of orphans, Rachel and Hilary, find themselves in a most unpromising position: Rachel is to be taken in by her uncle's family, and her adopted sister sent into a home, until Rachel's aunt Cora, the producer of numerous children's dancing troupes, discovers Hilary's talent for dance. Aunt Cora and her spoiled daughter Dulcie can't imagine that anyone wouldn't want to put on darling costumes and execute high kicks, but Rachel isn't interested in dancing at all, and furthermore, she promised her mother that Hilary would never execute acrobatics, but instead perform with the Royal Ballet. What can Rachel do except stick to her lessons and her Shakespeare and occasionally stick up for Hilary, while all the while everyone around her thinks of her only as a dull, jealous, ingrate?

Why you shouldn't read this book: You've ever believed you've been robbed by a relative who earned something you didn't really deserve.

Theater Shoes

Written by: Noel Streatfeild

First line: It is very difficult to look as if you minded the death of a grandfather who, though you may have spent your holidays in his house, certainly seldom remembered that you did.

Why you should read this book: Written in part as a response to the legions of young readers interested in the fate of the Fossil Sisters from the author's first children's novel, Ballet Shoes, this book follows the fates of a different set of orphans, Sorrel, Mark, and Holly, whose mother is dead and whose father is MIA in WWII. Packed off to live with the grandmother they've never known, they are surprised to learn that their mother is the scion of an established and respected theater family, estranged since her marriage to their father, and that their grandmother, a grand and unrealistic lady, expects them all to follow the family tradition and go on stage. Sorrel and Holly don't mind too much for themselves, but Mark is supposed to take after his father and become a sailor, and it doesn't seem like anyone cares what they want; between their intensive training at Madame Fidiola's and the tedious torment of their talented cousin Miranda, the Forbes children might end up molded into Warrens whether they like it or not.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You already have your infant children's entire life course mapped out for them.

The Thief of Always

Written by: Clive Barker

First line: The great, gray beast February had eaten Harvey Swick alive.

Why you should read this book: In the great modern tradition of children's literature that begins with a child so bored and jaded that he cannot appreciate the majesty of his own childhood, Harvey allows himself to be seduced away to the Holiday House where every morning is spring, every afternoon summer, every twilight Halloween, and every evening a Christmas Eve where you get exactly the present you desire. A kindly old woman prepares more delectable treats than you could eat in a lifetime, a series of bizarre creatures keep you in line, and your generous host, Mr. Hood, is nowhere to be found. When Harvey begins to suspect what sort of reality lies beneath the facade of his endless vacation, the part of him that burns bright rises up to take action, reclaim everything that's been stolen, and save all the children victimized by Mr. Hood.

Why you shouldn't read this book: It's a children's book written by one of the greatest horror writers of his generation. You do the math.

Gahan Wilson's Even Weirder

Written by: Gahan Wilson

First line: "WHO'S THERE?!?"

Why you should read this book: On the first page of this collection of one-panel comics, a horrifying creature shudders with the very valid suspicion that a human child in striped pajamas is hiding under his bed, and this reversal of expectations perfectly summarizes Wilson's often-gruesome, always-inverted work. Death, monsters, psychosis, and aliens comprise the quotidian themes of his constantly surprising one-liners, accompanied by the familiar grostesquery of his thick-fingered, often-helpless humans, trapped in a world they can rarely control or understand. The darkness is palpable in this macabre collection, but Wilson's black humor forces a ray of light into even the most horrifying speculation.

Why you shouldn't read this book: When my 8-year-old stepdaughter saw it lying in the floor, she shuddered at the illustration on the front cover, flipped it over to remove it from her sight, screamed at the back cover, and then quickly hid it beneath a variety of less disturbing books, stacking them high in an apparently unsuccessful attempt to erase the images from her mind. Not for the faint of heart. Or people with nosy stepkids, apparently.


Written by: Walter Dean Myers

First line: The best time to cry is at night, when the lights are out and someone is being beaten up and screaming for help.

Why you should read this book: In this modern classic of children's literature, Steve Harmon, a good kid who got himself mixed up with some bad people, awaits the verdict that will dictate the rest of his life: he's sixteen years old and he's been charged with murder, even though he didn't pull the trigger and barely even did anything except look inside a drug store. He's young, black, and scared, and his mind tries to mediate the terror and uncertainly of his situation by rewriting his experience as a script for a screenplay, giving him some emotional distance not only from the events at hand, but also from his actions in the past. A powerful story about decision-making, responsibility taking, and the choices we make casually and repent in fullness when we understand their repercussions.

Why you shouldn't read this book: Someone in your family was recently shot at work.

Calling Dr. Laura: A Graphic Memoir

Written by: Nicole J. Georges

First line: Verona Mauss 1. Is a Taurus.

Why you should read this book: Vegan, lesbian, and unsuccessfully looking for love in Portland, Oregon, Nicole Georges seems trapped by the lies and secrets of her past: she has no idea who her father is, and she's starting to suspect that her mother's canonical stories about him are all lies. Her entire life she's been plagued with stomach issues and self-doubt, caused by the uncertainties of her childhood and exemplified by her love for the last personality a self-respecting progressive should admire: the contentious, right-wing radio host Dr. Laura. Nicole's journey to self-discovery is one of learning to love herself enough to pursue and speak the truth, knowing that relationships are delicate and reality is not always as beautiful or cozy as a house full of dogs.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You regret coming out to your parents.

Y The Last Man--Kimono Dragons

Written by: Brian K. Vaughan

First line:

Why you should read this book: My favorite volume in the series so far, this book finds Yorick, 355, Dr. Mann, and her new friend Rose in Japan, searching for both Ampersand and Dr. Mann's mom, both of whom are expected to play a major role in the salvation of the world. Yorick and 355 avoid a giant vagina and get caught up in a web of android prostitution and the new Yakuza, which is run, inexplicably, by a psychotic Caucasian pop star; while Dr. Mann's reunion with her mother involves a ninja, an exorbitant quantity of blood, and detailed flashbacks. More surprises, lots of action, and periodic revelation help propel this book toward the series' eventual conclusion.

Why you shouldn't read this book: Still not the answers you're looking for.