I was having a pretty productive reading month in September until it all came to a screeching halt when my dog of 11 years died from cancer. I figuratively took my anticipated reading list for Hispanic Heritage Month, tore it into tiny little pieces, set those pieces on fire and then sat alone in a dark closet for a few days.
Losing a pet is hard, but this felt particularly devastating to me since my dog has been a constant, daily companion throughout the formative years of my life. Plus, he’s on my “About Me” page and so now that’s really awkward.
As a result, I’m in the midst of a pity party of one except there’s no booze or snacks and so this is basically the worst party ever. I’m also on a hiatus from Instagram. If you’re a follower on there (and, if not, what’s your problem? I’ll be back soon, so you better be there when I get back), I can’t thank you enough for all the kind words and condolences I’ve received after I had the courage to peek at my inbox.
It’s October now and I still don’t feel like picking up a book, let alone finishing the 3 books I’m currently in the middle of. But, I’m still pretty pleased with what I was able to finish reading in September.
As usual, here’s my wrap-up ranked in order from lowest to highest rated:
Royal City, Vol. 1: Next of Kin by Jeff Lemire
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
“Royal City” is a slice-of-life graphic novel about a family who comes together after their father has a stroke. Each family is struggling with a personal challenge: an unhappy marriage, substance addiction, loneliness and grief. On top of everything, Tommy, the youngest in the family who drowned years ago when he was a boy, haunts each of the family members in different ways.
This was beautifully illustrated with incredible, dreamlike panels of color. And I also felt moved by each character’s hopes and dreams for building a bright future in a working-class town, but the family members are also unnecessarily cruel towards each other. I found it difficult to connect and sympathize with characters I knew very little about and who were in the middle of bitter turmoil. The first volume is deeply melancholy with no reprieve, so I’m not exactly motivated to pick up the next volume in the series.
She Begat This: 20 Years of the Miseducation of Lauryn Hill by Joan Morgan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Joan Morgan, a music journalist and critic, is an expert at what she does and I can’t pretend to be. All I can offer are my fond memories of listening to Lauryn Hill in high school and basking in the glow of her performance at the 41st Grammy Awards (that white ensemble? I die).
As a causal music consumer, I really enjoyed this thoughtful look at Lauryn Hill’s career, her impact on the music industry and what it meant for black girl magic.
Buuut, I couldn’t appreciate the overall organization and structure of this book, which is nonlinear and often lapses into digressions that I felt were derailing. For example, I think it’s important to provide context on Black Power and the policy-making of the Clinton administration at the time but for a book that’s not even 200 pages, it’s a lot to wrap my brain around.
Overall, this is an excellent analysis of Lauryn Hill’s career and mystique that captivated all of us when she released The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. But casual music fans or a younger generation who didn’t grow up with her album might find themselves a little lost.
Captain Marvel, Volume 1: Higher, Further, Faster, More by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Captain Marvel, Vol. 1: Rise of Alpha Flight by Michele Fazekas
My rating: 4 of 5 stars and My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I’ve got Captain Marvel fever and the only prescription is more Captain Marvel. As a casual comic reader, Captain Marvel’s origin story is a confusing one for me. She’s half-human, half-alien (does being combined with a mentor during an explosion do that? I guess) and was granted vague cosmic powers by Mar Vell, the original Captain Marvel who once karate chopped the tesseract into oblivion during a fight with Thanos.
Are you following this? I kinda don’t but that’s OK because I’m totally enamored with Carol Danvers who’s basically a fearless, intergalactic cowgirl. In “Rise of Alpha Flight” she accepts a job aboard a space station designed to protect earth from the alien flavor-of-the-week threat. She discovers she hates diplomatic desk work but before she has a chance to do any kind of diplomacy, Carol is off to investigate a mysterious, abandoned space craft. With a cast of quirky but mostly forgettable characters, Captain Marvel zooms around the comic panels with her hair in an awesome mohawk and it’s all I need.
Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I had no idea that “Howl’s Moving Castle” was a book, let alone a series. I was really taken with plucky, pragmatic Sophie who is transformed into an old woman by The Witch of the Waste. She accepts her new situation without feeling very sorry for herself and decides to set out on her own, climbing into a magical castle and basically stumbling into her own adventure.
This was quirky and fun. Diana Wynne Jones does a great job describing scenes but leaving enough gaps that allowed me to fill in the rest with my own imagination.
There were a few occasion where I was tired of all the back and forth of characters entering the castle and leaving only to knock on the door moments later – seemingly, for no reason at all. Or characters making great treks across fields or palace grounds for the sole purpose of staging a run-in with another character. Even so, it’s a charming fantasy tale and a great one to breeze through.
Sleepless, Vol. 1 by Sarah Vaughn
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
“Sleepless” is set in a medieval world where an order of knights take a vow of sleeplessness in order to protect their wards. Like, they literally never sleep, ever. However, the longer they maintain their vow of sleeplessness, the more prone they are to “drifting”, hallucinating and slipping into a coma-like state. Soooo, who thought this vow thing was a good idea? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
The premise of the Sleepless knights feels little convoluted for it’s own good. But the art in this book is truly fantastic and there’s just enough royal intrigue to keep things interesting. Seriously though, take a look at that spectacular cover which features brooding, smokin’ hot Cyrenic and his ward, Lady Pyppenia.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
“Goddess” is a historical novel based on the real-life figure Julie d’Aubigny a breeches-wearin’, swash bucklin’, bi-swingin’ opera singer who lived in 16th century France. The book is told in alternating chapters from La Maupin’s deathbed. Dying of consumption, she recounts how she basically did whatever the hell she wanted in her short but exciting life.
The book is a little on the long side and the writing a bit mediocre. But Gardiner portrays La Maupin in such an utterly charming, woman-roaring way that I had loads of fun reading this book and imagining all of Julie’s exploits and heartbreaks.
Ninety-Nine Glimpses of Princess Margaret by Craig Brown
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
“Ninety-Nine Glimpses of Princess Margaret” is one of the most unique, entertaining biographies I’ve ever read. Craig Brown writes 99 vignettes of Princess Margaret as told through diary entries, newspaper clippings, announcements, autobiographies, imagined scenarios and more.
Brown does a fantastic job presenting even the most salacious gossip and accounts of Princess Margaret with a healthy dose of humor but without seeming gratuitous or mean-spirited. The book is a fascinating portrait of a tragic, surly, anti-Princess who definitely marched to the beat of her own drum.
The DNF for this month:
Reader, Come Home: The Reading Brain in a Digital World by Maryanne Wolf
You ever start reading a book and know, within the first few sentences, that you’re going to DNF it? That’s what happened to me with “Reader, Come Home.” For someone more academically inclined, this book might be more enjoyable. Wolf’s sentences are ridiculously long (I played a fun game to see if I could read her sentences in one breath or pass out in the attempt) and overall, this felt like an inaccessible book for a very specific audience.
That covers it! Tell me, have you read any of these? Do you plan to? Do you have your own sad story about pet loss? Let’s commiserate in the comments below.