Frequently while I was growing up, I was told that gifts or things that were given to me were meant to last & ‘wouldn’t it be nice if you were able to give this to your children one day?’ Going through my bookmark box, I found a few of those bookmarks that qualified. Ones that I jokingly think of to save for company, like the good china.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I don’t wander over to the YA section that often, but when I do, I always keep my eye out for something interesting. Simply reading the jacket copy that mentions an alternate Civil War history with zombies & race exploitation screams “Pick me up!” Justina Ireland’s Dread Nation takes something like Guns of the South & turns it completely on it’s head. Jane is a biracial girl who’s sent to a school that specifically trains non-white Americans to protect white citizens against the overwhelming zombie menace. While helping a friend try to find his sister, she stumbles upon a plot to create settlements in the West that will recreate antebellum laws & norms & is shipped off unwillingly as a recruit for the new border wall. A harsh reality becomes grimmer as she attempts to survive & take advantage of the various alliances buried beneath the new “City On A Hill”.
The above premise takes a while to explain & there is a fair amount of world-building. Ireland takes her time showing some of the different fascets of this new America, but things really get moving once Jane gets shipped off to the West. Everything that’s been introduced takes on new stakes & new meaning, so readers would benefit being patient through the first section. Ireland also clearly has many ideas & hopefully more books on the way to explore them, but I was so ready to keep going! Once the action started, I was transfixed & didn’t realize just how quickly the end came. Definitely a recommendation simply because its story ambitions pay off.
You GUYS! Another FCBD has come & gone, but I’m still super happy with my finds this year. I unfortunately had to work most of the day, but once I was off of work, I headed down to Velocity Comics to see if they had anything special this year. Unfortunately, having gotten there late in the day, the two freebies I really wanted were already gone: Brian K. Vaughn’s Barrier & the Fantagraphics sampler. But we can’t dwell on sadness—not on Rex Manning D—I mean, Free Comic Book Day!
Despite missing out on the freebies, I was SO EXCITED to find that my wonderful little store had FINALLY gotten in the first issue of local comic, Innsmouth by Megan James. This comic has been in such high demand that reprints of the first issue has been back-ordered since earlier this year. I’d been waiting patiently, collecting the other issues as they came out, waiting for that first issue so I could finally start reading it. And now, here it was! Binge-reading time!
I looked around a little bit more & also found that Hard Case Crime is putting out comics as well. So I picked up Normandy Gold, a comic done in the style of exploitation films from the 70s. I practically bounced up to Patrick at the counter & told him breathlessly that I’d been looking forward to visiting all day & finding cool stuff. I think I made him a little nervous with my enthusiasm, but then again, the store was still pretty busy despite the late hour, so maybe he just thought I was another weirdo.
All in all, a pretty fantastic FCBD. Soooo, if you’ll excuse me, I have a bunch of stuff to go read now. . .
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
3.5 instead of 4. Like many other readers, I picked this book up looking forward to seeing the passion project that McNamara had been working on at the time of her death & to support those who were determined to see her work in print. This book is an amazing testament to the friends & loved ones who wanted to do right by McNamara & preserve her legacy as a writer. With that said, this is also a manuscript that is still very much in draft stage & is not easy to read on its own. The placeholder text & McNamara’s thorough research give clues as to what could have been a phenomenal work of true crime reporting. The fact that interest in the case has helped lead to a suspect finally being taken into custody after these many years is also cathartic & I’m sure helps being closure to many. But without this context, the book is not a good standalone read. Instead, it is a poignant monument not just to a compelling writer who is gone, but also to cases that are forgotten & our own vested interest in some sort of justice.
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
A gift from a friend who saw the recommendation as “Kafka crossed with David Foster Wallace” & thought of me. I have to commend her instincts; this novel definitely kept me reading & left me pondering the human mysteries it brought up. Helen Moran has received a phone call that her adopted brother has committed suicide & she decides to travel home to mourn him as well as uncover what happened to him. Told from her point-of-view, Helen’s interior monologue eerily conveys a character teetering on an edge, although readers may deduce that this is not an uncommon state for her.
First, Helen’s voice & skewed perspective is compelling & while she purposefully sets out to “solve” her brother’s suicide, she often seems to contribute to the mystery of her family’s difficult relationships as well. She’s not unlike Jesse in Suicide Blonde, where the world & its workings have completely confounded her & she’s determined to figure out her own way through the chaos. But where Jesse is chasing her fragmented dreams from her past, Helen appears to have never been comfortable in this world & creates entire structures for herself out of her own self-justification & whatever is at hand.
There are some great moments of pitch-black humor & her increasing desperation at proving her good intentions despite her erratic behavior humanized her for me. Ultimately, Cottrell seems to be shooting for a Pynchon-esque ending, where nothing is really answered & I can appreciate that. I just don’t know if all the narrative strings are wrapped up as satisfactorily as they could be. I wanted to know more about this character & how she could even get through a day with these experiences weighing on her, but had to settle for where the book ended.