Giant Love for Giant Days by John Allison and Whitney Cogar

Giant Days, Vol. 1 and 2

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I’m still a newbie to the comics game, but when I came across Giant Days, Vol. 1 at my job at the library, I couldn’t help reading the first few pages. And I was IMMEDIATELY hooked. I requested the first two volumes from the library and basically devoured them.

Giant Days follows three students who recently started university and quickly became best friends: Goth, statuesque Esther, whose powers for stirring up drama are truly remarkable; snarky, cynical Susan, the trio’s voice of reason and common sense; and sweet, home-schooled Daisy, whose naivety and optimism are truly refreshing. Together, the girls embark on a journey of self-discovery and reinvention as they find themselves away from home for the first time.

I really loved the way Giant Days portrays college life, enveloping everything from the unlikely friendships that develop, to the struggle to find a balance between socializing and schoolwork, to the colds and flus that spread like wildfire through the dorms. There are boy troubles and girl troubles, experimentation and questions of sexuality, drama-fraught dances, and study sessions fueled by pills of questionable legality.

But what I loved the most are the three heroins. Esther, Susan, and Daisy have such vivid, distinct personalities, and it was so much fun to see them play off each other. They each have a completely different approach to life and how they handle problems, but each young woman is smart, funny, strong, and insecure in her own way. Like Lumberjanes, Giant Days is a really wonderful depiction of female friendship. It’s just a ton of fun to read, and I can’t wait for Vol . 3 to come out in October. READ IT!

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Stepping Outside My Comfort Zone With The Killing Moon by N.K. Jemisin

 

When I was a teenager, fantasy novels were my jam. I couldn’t re-read the Harry Potter series enough times, I was always anticipating the next Artemis Fowl book, and the Abhorsen series was a regular part of my rotation. And yet, as I transitioned to adult fiction, my interest in fantasy fell by the wayside. However, a few months ago, in the depths of the worst reading slump I’ve ever experienced, I decided to shake things up and try reading The Killing Moon, the first novel in N.K. Jemisin’s Dreamblood series. Julianne of Outlandish Lit raved about it, and she hasn’t let me down yet.

In the city of Gujaareh, peace is the law of the land — a law enforced by Gatherers, who shepherd the souls of the pure and the corrupt alike to their final resting place, the land of dreams. But what happens when the very institution responsible for rooting out corruption becomes complicit in the creation of a monster?

From the outset, Jemisin drops the reader into a world that is already turning on its axis, offering little help to readers as they try to get their bearings. I felt so lost in a world of unfamiliar terms, new-to-me names, and mysterious systems of law and religion, that I nearly gave up after the first 150 pages. Luckily, Julianne told me to keep reading, and she’s a queen, so I do what she says. After re-skimming all of the dialogue that point (which really didn’t take very long), I had a much better grasp on who the characters were, how this world worked, and what was happening in the plot.

Once I hit my stride, everything fell into place. The Killing Moon transformed from a baffling world where I didn’t speak the language into a gripping adventure full of intrigue, ambition, and deception as our heroes Ehiru, Gujaareh’s most respected Gatherer; Nijiri, his apprentice; and Sunandi, a totally badass foreign ambassador, fight to get to the bottom of a conspiracy that threatens the peace and safety not only of Gujaareh, but of the world. The characters are compelling and well-drawn, the world building is top-notch while still leaving plenty to reveal in future books, and the multi-layered plot kept me guessing.

This book was definitely outside my comfort zone, but I thoroughly enjoyed it after I got over my initial discomfort. I would highly recommend The Killing Moon to other readers interested in foraying into fantasy, with a small heads up that some patience is required. May I hint that there’s a glossary in the back of the book that would probably have helped me immensely had it occurred to me to read it?

What’s the last book you read that was outside your comfort zone? 

Book Review: The First Book of Calamity Leek by Paula Lichtarowicz

Safely secluded from the Outside world by a massive stone wall, Calamity Leek and her 12 sisters spend their days tending roses in the Garden, embroidering petal-stuffed cushions, and learning the skills they will use when they are old enough to go to war against the demonmales. In the place of textbooks, their dedicated, deformed caregiver Aunty instructs them from her multi-volume Appendix, a document made up of a Showreel; beauty rituals; and bizarre myths about the sisters’ purpose, life Outside, and the nature of the world. (Those cushions they sew? They’ll be used to cover the sky lid to protect the girls from the damaging heat of the Sun. And why are the cushions stuffed with petals? To perfume the sky so they won’t be poisoned by His polluting farts, naturally.) But when one sister seeks out the truth about what lies beyond the Wall, she sows the seeds of doubt that will topple their orderly lives.

I’ve been slumping pretty hard for the last six months, unable to muster much enthusiasm for the books on my shelf. I’ve been trying to #readmyowndamnbooks, but when I came across this novel in my work at the library, it seemed like just the right amount of weirdness to capture and keep my attention. It didn’t let me down! The First Book of Calamity Leek alternately made me laugh and gave me chills. I loved the way Lichtarowicz slowly, subtly reveals details in the observations of a girl who has no idea of the significance of what she’s reporting.

Delightfully strange and deeply unsettling, The First Book of Calamity Leek calls into question the stories we tell ourselves — and our stubborn adherence to these stories even as their holes are revealed. It’s a book that combines The Handmaid’s Tale‘s twisted version of female safety with The Beautiful Bureaucrat‘s inventive plays on language to fantastic effect. Like Our Endless Numbered Days, it asks more questions than it answers, making it a great book club pick.

Notable Quotes

“On the television, the demonmale was stepping up to seal the deal good and proper with poor Cinderella, or, how they say it so females should know to set off running, if they haven’t already started, Forever and ever OUR MEN. ” p 79-80

“Course, them demonmales shook their beards and laughed when Annie told them — which she was a total loonhead to do — about our Appendix. One of them said he had his own book with different stories in it about how everything started. The other one said the plain truth was the Sun was just a ball of fire, and we all grew out of fish, and hadn’t Annie heard that?” p  267

Screen and Page Pairings: Girls and Treasure Island!!!

Nearly two years may have passed since I lamented the seeming lack of literary fiction centered around characters in their twenties, but I still feel that same frustration. My thirst for stories about people in my stage of life is slightly slaked by HBO’s Girls, which, despite its failings in representing only a very narrow, white, privileged version of Brooklyn millennial life, is one of the only shows I’ve seen that stars characters I relate too. (It’s a curse as much as it is a blessing; I can’t describe the horror I felt while re-watching the series a year ago and realizing Marnie was the character I related to the most. Fucking Marnie. It was a dark time in my life, which has thankfully passed.)

Anyway, all this to say,* I’m always on the lookout for books that delve into the lives of women in their twenties, so I was more than a little excited when bae sneakily bought me a copy of Treasure Island!!! by Sara Levine on a used-bookstore date.**

Our unnamed narrator is drifting through life without purpose and working a string of meaningless jobs when she picks up a copy of Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island. The adventures of Jim Hawkins shock her out of her lethargy, and she vows to live her life according to Stevenson’s Core Values:

BOLDNESS

RESOLUTION

INDEPENDENCE

HORN-BLOWING

As she becomes increasingly obsessed with Treasure Island, she sheds caution and manners and any trace of respect for her friends and family. She imposes on her boyfriend’s generosity, steals cash from her employer at The Pet Library to buy a parrot (because if she’s going to be Jim Hawkins, she needs a parrot, obvs), proceeds to neglect said parrot, and betrays her sister in a fit of self-righteousness. She is self-absorbed, entitled, delusional, and completely oblivious to the way her actions are hurting those around her. She is infuriating and, somehow, utterly endearing.

I don’t always “cast” characters in the books I read, but I couldn’t help reading lines like, “I’m twenty-five years old and this happened on a Monday when I didn’t have to work at The Pet Library and had no plans except to sleep and maybe wash my bras in the sink, and that was a big maybe,” in the voice of Lena Dunham playing Hannah Horvath on Girls. Although Treasure Island!!! is exponentially more ridiculous than Girls, they both convey a sense of millennial aimlessness and portray young women who don’t always conform to the roles society has created for them. As Roxane Gay discusses in her essay “Not Here to Make Friends,” it’s weirdly refreshing to watch and read about women who are just unapologetically terrible in a world where female characters are often judged on their likability.

Treasure Island!!! is absurd, hilarious, and oddly compelling. I haven’t been this horrifically entranced by a narrator since reading The People in the Trees by Hanya Yanagihara, and that is a truly magical thing. If you’re craving a bizarre read (I mean, it has a Pet Library where people literally borrow living animals) that will simultaneously make you boil with rage and want to grab a bowl of popcorn, this one’s for you.

*I basically just resurrected this blog as a means of finding out just how many Hamilton lyrics I can sneak into my posts.

** He was reading Bad Feminist and remembered Roxane Gay’s essay about Treasure Island!!! I’m telling you, he’s a keeper.

What’d I Miss?

Alright lovelies, I’ve been away from the blogosphere for six months, and I’m pretty out of the loop. I feel like Jefferson coming back from Paris, minus the glorious hair and bravado.

What'd I Miss?

I have a lot of catching up to do. So, if you have a few minutes, help me get back into the swing of things by leaving a comment letting me know any or all of the following:

  • Your favorite post you wrote
  • Your favorite post written by someone else
  • Your favorite new or new-to-you blog
  • The best book you read recently
  • The upcoming title you’re most excited to read
  • Something exciting you want to share about your life

Thanks!