April 29, 2011

Three Books

Someone recommended this book to me and, as I often do, I put it on the library request list without even investigating.

When We Were Strangers, by Pamela Schoenewaldt
(photo from Amazon.com)


I read the first couple of pages and I was like, "Oh. Tiny village, young girl, late 1800s, poverty and misery. Not my style." I kept reading only because it was my last library book.

It totally won me over. By the time she sets out for America, I was all, "Whoaaaaaaaaaa." I could just PICTURE it. I really really really did not think I was much interested in immigration stories aside from a moderate interest in the most dramatic story from my own family (boat sank, almost everyone was killed except a few people including my male ancestor and female ancestor, who then perhaps bonded over their survival guilt and got married), but it turned out I WAS interested. Bewitched, almost. And yet, when I think back over it, I'm STILL not interested in a summary of the plot, and I don't have much interest in reading MORE immigration stories.

Will YOU like it? Dunno! I mean, I could say, "If YOU don't like immigration stories EITHER, you might!" or "If you DO like immigration stories, you might!"---so I suspect it's actually, "If you like this style of writing, you will!" since I felt like it was more the storyteller than the story for this one.


Y: The Last Man, by Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra
(photo from Amazon.com)


Paul heard about this book and thought I'd like it so he requested it from the library. I read it in an evening, and handed it to him saying "More." It's an apocalyptic graphic novel series, and the gist is that every person and animal with a Y chromosome dies all at once---except for one man and one male monkey. The first book has to Do The Apocalypse Part, so there are a few upsetting pages where the women are watching all the men die. And then, of course, there is a new world order, and you know what new world orders are founded on? PEACE AND LOVE. Ha ha! No. New world orders are founded on people grabbing for power with both fists, using violence and cultish control practices when necessary.

So...it's not like I can tell you this is not an upsetting book---but if you LIKE apocalypse stuff, as I do, I think you'll like it. I was worried the visual element would be too much (I like apocalyptic BOOKS but not apocalyptic MOVIES), but I was able to handle it with only a few winces or upset feelings---and those are sort of guaranteed with, like, a mass death situation.


Picture This by Lynda Barry
(photo from Amazon.com)


I buy every new book by Lynda Barry without even looking to see what it's about. It doesn't MATTER what it's about; I know I will like it. The back of this one says something about Lynda Barry having created a new genre, the graphic-novel how-to, and that's what this is. It's part demonstration, part instruction, part freestyle thoughts on art and the experience of making art and the experiences that go into art. Every page is crammed to the edges with pictures and words and watercolor. I don't even DO art and I was interested. But of course, part of this is that I am very keen on Lynda Barry's whole THING, her whole drawing/writing STYLE. So if you AREN'T...well, then, I think you won't like this book! But if you DO, well then you WILL.

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Well! Aren't those good reviews? "If you like this sort of thing, then this is the sort of thing you would like! Contrariwise, if you DON'T like this sort of thing, then this is NOT the sort of thing you'd like!"

18 comments:

ssm said...

Oh, thank you! I love book reviews from people who don't always write book reviews, because they are unexpectedly different from the zillion I see on a daily basis. And honestly, "professional" book reviews are overrated (as someone who used to have to do them, it gets a little old following a certain format and not being able to say, use the phrase, "sucked donkey balls" about a book, or some such thing). A good review is one that makes you want to read the book. Or, if it's a horrid book, one that makes you want to eat your hat because you laughed so hard. (I kind of love those best, even if I can't write them very well.)

Amanda said...

I loved When We Were Strangers. I also love immigration stories though. I seem to have read a ton of them - I don't go seeking them but they all land in my lap.

Maggie said...

I love post-apocalypse stuff and have been toying with reading The Last Man for awhile. Putting it on library list now!

Brigid Keely said...

I really dug "Y the Last Man" except for the ending, for a number of reasons.

I love Lynda Barry SO SO SO SO SO MUCH. "Cruddy" is one of my favorite books EVER. She's so awesome in person. Also: if you send her a card or letter, she'll totally respond. :)

Melissa Haworth said...

Excellent--thank you. I have been at a loss for a new book--started 3 and none are quite it. The Lynda Barry books look completely intriguing and are already in my request queue at the local library. How had I completely missed this author???

Alicia said...

I started reading Y: The Last Man but didn't finish (not because it wasn't good, no real reason). My husband *loves* it. I think there is/was a movie/TV series too?

Sara said...

What timing! I got on the computer to update my library request list, and decided to check out my blog reader! Will add to my list! :)

Bibliomama said...

I'm an apocalypse junkie. I don't know why, since if my dishwasher breaks down it reduces me to a totally indefensible level of despair - maybe it's a kind of inoculation. I agree with ssm - a book review where just the POSSIBILITY of a phrase like 'sucked donkey balls' exists is always better than one where it doesn't.

Cayt said...

I disliked Y the last man intensely. I read the first trade, and didn't ask for any of the rest. I objected to the straw-man feminist villains, I felt that it was under-researched and objected to the fact that in a world where almost every man has died, the main character is still a white abled male. I really love apocalypse novels, too, but I really hate misogyny which I felt Y The Last Man was definitely not short on. That said, I love it when you do reviews.

The Curmudgeon said...

I LOVE the Y the Last Man series - Brian K. Vaughan has done a number of good projects but this is really a standout. Cayt, I'd be curious to know where you saw misogyny in it - I thought he did an excellent job of portraying many different kinds of characters without cardboard-cutout-ing them.

velocibadgergirl said...

Did you read the whole Y series, or just the first collected book? I really, really liked it...but then I didn't love the way it ended. I'm wondering if it was just me?

Swistle said...

velocibadgergirl- I've just read the first so far, but I have three more next to my readin' chair. Someone else in the comment section says that disliked the ending, too---I'm glad to have a heads up.

The Curmudgeon said...

The ending was definitely divisive among the fans - many loved, many haaaaaated. Years after reading it I'm still pondering what I think about it, which I think actually speaks well of the series. :)

Kelsey said...

It isn't exactly apocalyptic but that second review makes me wonder if you've read/if you'd like The Hunger Games trilogy... I can't remember if you've ever mentioned those.

Swistle said...

Kelsey- I haven't yet. I keep meaning to, but am I remembering right that the reaction to the last book was poor?

laura said...

I too will read anything that Lynda Barry writes/draws/scribbles, thanks for the heads up about this one.

Melinda said...

I just finished "When we were strangers" are few minutes ago and had to come thank you for mentioning it. I loved it! And I think you're right that it was the writing style and narrative more than anything that drew me in and kept me captivated. Thanks Swistle!

Swistle said...

Melinda- Oh hooray! I'm glad you liked it!