mini-review · stuff I read

The Unicorn Whisperer by Dana Simpson (Phoebe and Her Unicorn #10)

43821537Summary from Goodreads:
Welcome back to the hilarious and heartwarming world of Phoebe and Her Unicorn, where readers of all ages can always find a friend to lend a magical helping hand — or hoof.

For 9-year-old Phoebe Howell and her sparkling companion, Marigold Heavenly Nostrils, every day is an adventure. In this latest installation of Dana Simpson’s award-winning Phoebe and Her Unicorn series, Phoebe navigates the challenges of school life with a little help from her unicorn friend, who is always ready with the perfect spell for the occasion. But as the magic spells mount up, both Phoebe and Marigold find themselves wondering if sometimes they might be taking things just a little too far…

87ecd9ed-80f5-4038-8ef0-e35d1c5cc151Another adorbs collection of web comics from Dana Simpson. I love the relationship between Phoebe and Marigold and the way the fourth panel in a strip has an excellent stinger. This collection also has some really great strips with Phoebe and her hipster dad, so cute. There did seem to be an odd jump at one point where all of a sudden Phoebe and Marigold needed to return Dakota’s boots without any previous mention in this volume of Dakota’s boots as a plot point. So I do wonder if we’re missing a strip or two.

Dear FTC: I bought my copy of this book. Gotta have the whole set!

mini-review · stuff I read

The Witches Are Coming by Lindy West

38362811Summary from Goodreads:
A brilliant and incisive look at how patriarchy, intolerance, and misogyny have conquered not just politics but American culture itself.

What do Adam Sandler, Donald Trump, and South Park have in common? Why are myths like “reverse sexism” and “political correctness” so seductive? And why do movie classics of yore, from Sixteen Candles to Revenge of the Nerds, make rape look like so much silly fun? With Lindy West’s signature wit and in her uniquely incendiary voice, The Witches are Coming lays out a grand theory of America that explains why Trump’s election was, in many ways, a foregone conclusion.

As West reveals through fascinating journeys across the landscapes of pop culture, the lies that fostered the catastrophic resentment that boiled over in the 2016 presidential race did not spring from a vacuum. They have in fact been woven into America’s DNA, cultivated by generations of mediocre white men and fed to the masses with such fury that we have become unable to recognize them as lies at all.

Whether it be the notion overheard since the earliest moments of the #MeToo movement that feminism has gone too far or the insistence that holding someone accountable for his actions amounts to a “witch hunt,” The Witches are Coming exposes the lies that many have chosen to believe and the often unexpected figures who have furthered them. Along the way, it unravels the tightening link between culture and politics, identifying in the memes, music, and movies we’ve loved the seeds of the neoreactionary movement now surging through the nation.

Sprawling, funny, scorching, and illuminating, The Witches are Coming shows West at the top of her intellectual and comic powers. As much a celebration of America’s potential as a condemnation of our failures, some will call it a witch hunt—to which West would reply, “So be it. I’m a witch and I’m hunting you.”

I so enjoy Lindy West’s writing and The Witches are Coming does not disappoint. I snort-laughed in public often. This collection doesn’t have as much range as Shrill, which drew from all parts of Lindy’s life and felt very personal, but has more focus on cultural commentary – good commentary, and yes, that Adam Sandler essay because I have never understood why people thought he was funny. Her excellent Goop Health piece is included here.

(1. That cover. 2. Whee, Shrill S2 drops in January!)

Dear FTC: I bought my copy of this book. Although I might have to exchange it since we’re going to get signed copies for the holidays at the store.

stuff I read

The White Man’s Guide to White Male Writers of the Western Canon by Dana Schwartz, illustrated by Jason Adam Katzenstein

43884181._SY475_Summary from Goodreads:
Narrated by the voice of a once-in-a-generation Twitter account @GuyInYourMFA: a handbook for the wannabe literary elite and those who laugh at them—all illustrated by a New Yorker cartoonist.

Who better than that unjustifiably overconfident guy in your MFA to mansplain the most important (aka white male) writers of western literature? You can’t miss him: riding the L, writing furiously in his Moleskine notebook, or defying the wind by hand-rolling a cigarette outside a Williamsburg coffeeshop. He’s read Infinite Jest 9 1/2 times—have you?

From Shakespeare’s greatest mystery (how could a working-class man without access to an MFA program be so prolific?) to the true meaning of Kafkaesque (you know you’ve made it when you have an adjective named for you) to an appropriately minimalist dissertation on Raymond Carver that segues effortlessly into a devastating critique of a New Yorker rejection letter (”serious believability issues”), this guide is at once profound and practical.

Use a Venn diagram to test your knowledge of which Jonathan—Franzen, Lethem, or Safran Foer—hates Twitter and lives in Brooklyn. (Trick question: all 3!) Practice slyly responding to an invitation to discuss Bartleby the Scrivener with “I would prefer not to.” Sneer at chick-lit and drink Mojitos like Hemingway (not like middle-aged divorcées!). And as did Nabokov (originator of the emoticon), find the Pale Fire within.

So instead of politely nodding next time you encounter said person at a housewarming party in Brooklyn, you can hand them this book and tell them to roll up their sleeves and cigarettes, and get to writing the next great American novel.

Much parody, very satire. (Y’all, if you don’t understand what the @guyinmyMFA twitter account is about you won’t understand this book.)

If you’re looking for a funny, dry, keeps-nothing-precious snark-guide for a booklover, this is it. The illustrations are a hoot, too.

The White Man’s Guide to White Male Writers of the Western Canon is out today, November 5.

Dear FTC: I read a digital galley of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss during 24in48 in July.

mini-review · stuff I read

Dear Girls: Intimate Tales, Untold Secrets, and Advice for Living Your Best Life by Ali Wong

44600621Summary from Goodreads:
Ali Wong’s heartfelt and hilarious letters to her daughters (the two she put to work while they were still in utero), covering everything they need to know in life, like the unpleasant details of dating, how to be a working mom in a male-dominated profession, and how she trapped their dad.

In her hit Netflix comedy special Baby Cobra, an eight-month pregnant Ali Wong resonated so heavily that she became a popular Halloween costume. Wong told the world her remarkably unfiltered thoughts on marriage, sex, Asian culture, working women, and why you never see new mom comics on stage but you sure see plenty of new dads.

The sharp insights and humor are even more personal in this completely original collection. She shares the wisdom she’s learned from a life in comedy and reveals stories from her life off stage, including the brutal singles life in New York (i.e. the inevitable confrontation with erectile dysfunction), reconnecting with her roots (and drinking snake blood) in Vietnam, tales of being a wild child growing up in San Francisco, and parenting war stories. Though addressed to her daughters, Ali Wong’s letters are absurdly funny, surprisingly moving, and enlightening (and disgusting) for all.

I did snort-laugh many times while reading. If you like Ali Wong’s stand-up, Dear Girls continues a lot of jokes and themes from her specials. She does a lot of raunch humor about body fluids and sex but also about the grossness of pregnancy and motherhood that kind of gets swept under the rug. The format of letters to her daughters is a little odd since they’re quite small now but it does make some of the pieces endearing. The letters about visiting Vietnam and learning more about her Chinese (father) and Vietnamese (mother) heritage were lovely.

I didn’t quite get the necessity of the Afterword from her husband; it was nice, but tonally weird. There is also a joke that occurs late in one of the last chapters which perpetuates the stereotype of multiple personality disorder and violence which is very 😬😬😬.

Dear Girls is out October 15.

Dear FTC: I read a digital galley of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss.

Reading Diversely · Reading Graphically · Reading Women · stuff I read

Bloodlust & Bonnets by Emily McGovern

40680980Summary from Goodreads:
From the creator of the hit webcomic My Life As a Background Slytherin comes a hilarious graphic novel pastiche of classic Romantic literature led by a trio of queer misfits—and several angry vampires.

Set in early nineteenth-century Britain, Bloodlust & Bonnets follows Lucy, an unworldly debutante who desires a life of passion and intrigue—qualities which earn her the attention of Lady Violet Travesty, the leader of a local vampire cult.

But before Lucy can embark on her new life of vampiric debauchery, she finds herself unexpectedly thrown together with the flamboyant poet Lord Byron (“from books!”) and a mysterious bounty-hunter named Sham. The unlikely trio lie, flirt, fight, and manipulate each other as they make their way across Britain, disrupting society balls, slaying vampires, and making every effort not to betray their feelings to each other as their personal and romantic lives become increasingly entangled.

Both witty and slapstick, elegant and gory, Emily McGovern’s debut graphic novel pays tribute to and pokes fun at beloved romance tropes, delivering a joyous, action-packed world of friendship and adventure.

I’ve long been a fan of “My Life as a Background Slytherin” so when I saw that Emily McGovern had a Regency-romp graphic novel coming out I downloaded it immediately. Bloodlust & Bonnets is a goofy send-up of both the Regency and paranormal romance genres. It’s unapologetically queer – Sham is transgender, Lucy is bisexual, and Byron is, well, Byron (he’s fabulous in drag). Throw in a telepathic French eagle, a questionable Society matron, a vampire cult, and a magical, omniscient castle with a security problem and this puts the capital R in Romp. The plot has a lot of the same energy and humor that Nimona brought to the table, though this is not a YA graphic novel (some swearing and one very nekkid succubus). McGovern takes a lot of potshots at genre tropes, to the point that the book is perhaps overstuffed to the detriment of the plot. But it’s so much fun to read.

Dear FTC: I read a digital galley of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss.

stuff I read

Nice Try: Stories of Best Intentions and Mixed Results by Josh Gondelman

43309518Summary from Goodreads:
Emmy-Award winning writer and comedian Josh Gondelman’s collection of personal stories of best intentions and mixed results.

Josh Gondelman knows a thing or two about trying—and failing. The Emmy Award-winning stand-up comic—dubbed a “pathological sweetheart” by the New York Observer—is known throughout the industry as one of comedy’s true “nice guys.” Not surprisingly, he’s endured his share of last-place finishes. But he keeps on bouncing back.

In this collection of hilarious and poignant essays (including his acclaimed New York Times piece “What if I Bombed at My Own Wedding?”), Josh celebrates a life of good intentions—and mixed results. His true tales of romantic calamities, professional misfortunes, and eventual triumphs reinforce the notion: we get out of the world what we put into it. Whether he’s adopting a dog from a suspicious stranger, mitigating a disastrous road trip, or trying MDMA for the first (and only) time, Josh only wants the best for everyone—even as his attempts to do the right thing occasionally implode.

Full of the warm and relatable humor that’s made him a favorite on the comedy club circuit, Nice Try solidifies Josh Gondelman’s reputation as not just a good guy, but a skilled observer of the human condition.

Not gonna lie, I originally started following Josh Gondelman on social media because a) he’s married to Maris Kreisman (if you don’t listen to her excellent book podcast The Maris Review go do that) and b) it increased the possibility of getting adorable pug pictures by about 33%. But then I found out Josh was a pretty funny guy (and does Twitter pep talks which is about the nicest thing to ever happen to that platform). Now he has a book out.

Nice Try is a sweet and funny book of personal essays (and lists) about being the type of person who worries a lot and tends to give everyone the benefit of the doubt (even sketchy dudes giving you a dog and the Patriots because your grandma was a fan). Standout pieces include “You Don’t Know, Now You Know” (becoming a rap fan), “The Thanksgiving Dragon”, “The Three True Stories of How We Met” (awwww 💖), and “Bizzy” (y’all, if you don’t follow @bizzythepug on Instagram well, your life has less snorty, pizza-begging pugs wearing adorable coats in it). The book ends with “Don’t Let the Bastards Grind You Down” which is a call to just try and do your best and put a little back into the world when it feels like everything is going to burn down around you. Out today!

Dear FTC: I read a digital galley from the publisher via Edelweiss then I will be buying a copy because Josh is visiting the Iowa City Book Festival in October.

stuff I read

Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir (The Locked Tomb #1)

42036538Summary from Goodreads:
Gideon the Ninth is the most fun you’ll ever have with a skeleton.
The Emperor needs necromancers.
The Ninth Necromancer needs a swordswoman.
Gideon has a sword, some dirty magazines, and no more time for undead bullshit.
Tamsyn Muir’s Gideon the Ninth unveils a solar system of swordplay, cut-throat politics, and lesbian necromancers. Her characters leap off the page, as skillfully animated as necromantic skeletons. The result is a heart-pounding epic science fantasy.
Brought up by unfriendly, ossifying nuns, ancient retainers, and countless skeletons, Gideon is ready to abandon a life of servitude and an afterlife as a reanimated corpse. She packs up her sword, her shoes, and her dirty magazines, and prepares to launch her daring escape. But her childhood nemesis won’t set her free without a service.
Harrowhark Nonagesimus, Reverend Daughter of the Ninth House and bone witch extraordinaire, has been summoned into action. The Emperor has invited the heirs to each of his loyal Houses to a deadly trial of wits and skill. If Harrowhark succeeds she will be become an immortal, all-powerful servant of the Resurrection, but no necromancer can ascend without their cavalier. Without Gideon’s sword, Harrow will fail, and the Ninth House will die.
Of course, some things are better left dead.

So, the Bookternet started screaming about Gideon the Ninth back in, oh, February? and Tor was nice enough to hook a girl up with a digital galley which I inhaled immediately. The hook for this book was “lesbian necromancers in space” so I was like “YES PLEASE NOW HOW DOES THIS WORK.”

Caveat: they are in actual space for about 5 pages (going from one planet to the other) and I wasn’t quite sure about Gideon’s or Harrow’s sexual orientation until about two-thirds through the book (I was sure Gideon would have shagged anything not wearing Ninth House-Goth robes if it meant getting off that planet and Harrow I had down as asexual, since sexual desire is more of a fleshly (read: human) thing and not within her exalted purview as an exemplary bone witch and the Reverend Daughter of the Ninth House) but yes, so many necromancers. And is necromancy an art, or magic, or a science? Depending on the House specialty in this world, it could be any of those three.

My review: WHAAAAAAAATTTT IS THIS ENDING AND WHEEEEEEEEEERE CAN I FIND THE NEXT BOOK *cries in Why Are Trilogies*

I mean, Gideon is now my favorite snarky, ginger, trashweasel and I loved how Muir played Gideon and Harrow off each other. They take strips off each other for fun – Harrow is better at this than Gideon – but at the end of the day they really have only each other. The supporting characters were so fun (my heart, the Pents). I loved Muir’s world-building with all the many different types of necromancy. Also: swordfighting. I wouldn’t want to live in this world (ew, so many reanimated skeletons) but it was so much fun to read.

I do have a trigger warning for a discussion of suicide in the past. And it goes without saying that a necromancer’s world is full of all the ways one can die violently and be brought back to life, so this is a violent book at times.

And now I must wait until Muir finished the next book. *plots*

Gideon the Ninth is out today!! Go, go, go! Pick one up from your favorite bookstore.

Dear FTC: I inhaled this galley twice – thanks Tor – and then preordered a copy because BLACK-SPRAYED EDGES.

stuff I read

Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs?: Big Questions from Tiny Mortals About Death by Caitlin Doughty

43785830Summary from Goodreads:
Best-selling author and mortician Caitlin Doughty answers real questions from kids about death, dead bodies, and decomposition.

Every day, funeral director Caitlin Doughty receives dozens of questions about death. What would happen to an astronaut’s body if it were pushed out of a space shuttle? Do people poop when they die? Can Grandma have a Viking funeral?

In Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs?, Doughty blends her mortician’s knowledge of the body and the intriguing history behind common misconceptions about corpses to offer factual, hilarious, and candid answers to thirty-five distinctive questions posed by her youngest fans. In her inimitable voice, Doughty details lore and science of what happens to, and inside, our bodies after we die. Why do corpses groan? What causes bodies to turn colors during decomposition? And why do hair and nails appear longer after death? Readers will learn the best soil for mummifying your body, whether you can preserve your best friend’s skull as a keepsake, and what happens when you die on a plane. Beautifully illustrated by Dianné Ruz, Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs? shows us that death is science and art, and only by asking questions can we begin to embrace it.

I saw this title in Norton’s Fall catalog and hit the “request” button for a galley so hard I’m surprised I didn’t sprain a finger. I may have said something about it being a necessary read because I had just acquired kittens who would possibly eat my eyeballs if I died suddenly. (Yes, I’m weird.)

Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs? is a delight. Caitlin Doherty is so funny and the book is packed with facts. Eyeball-eating-cats are dealt with in the very first chapter (tl;dr: yes, your cat might eat your eyeballs if it were hungry enough and had finished eating the yummier, fattier bits of you first, you’re welcome for that visual) and Doherty goes on to delve into what happens to our deceased pets if we bury them in the backyard, what happens when you’re cremated, if you die outside the US, and are Viking funerals a real thing among many other topics. The reading level feels very middle grade and up, so the tinier morbid humans may need a little help when reading, but a lot of the information here was new to me so even adults will get a lot out of it. Plus the black-and-white illustrations are excellent.

Definitely going to be one of my holiday handsell books. Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs? is out September 10!

Dear FTC: I read a digital galley from the publisher via Edelweiss.