Title: The Arrival
Author: Shaun Tan
Number of pages: 128
Genre: graphic novel
Book Number/Goal: 33/52
My Rating: 5/5

A story of an emigrant who left his troubled country to build a new home in a (hopefully) better place. Everything in the new country is weird: monster-like animals, alien machinery, exotic hieroglyphic language. The man meets other immigrants, every one with their own story.

The book contains no text - the plot must be "decoded" image by image, and somehow it works! The graphics is amazingly detailed and stylish, in sepia tones reminiscent of old photographs. It doesn't just tell a sequence of events but reflects the feelings of someone far away from home, struggling to cope with the new reality. It appears that the author meant the alien land as a metaphor for Australia, but every emigrant can relate to it.
Title: Watchmen
Author: Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons
Number of Pages: 416 pages
Book Number/Goal: 23/50 for 2011
My Rating: 3.5/5

Summary: In an alternate 1985, masked heroes exist, but with a few exceptions have been banned by the US government since the seventies. When one of the remaining active heroes is murdered, another exiled to Mars, and a third thrown in prison, two retired heroes team up to try and find out what's going on, but what they discover is beyond anything they could have imagined.

Review: I hated the art for this, but the story was interesting, if a bit hard to follow at times due to the way I couldn't keep anyone straight at first and it kept jumping all over the place in the timeline. Once I got a few chapters in, it was easier to keep everyone straight, though. This did interesting things with the idea of superheroes, making it a bit more realistic. None of the heroes or villains have any sort of superpowers, except for Dr Manhattan, and I like things like the way the heroes were inspired to start fighting crime by reading comic books, and the government ban and such. Like, one of the things that I find hard to deal with in US superhero comics is how everyone exists in the same universe. Like, I really think they should be separate. I don't think they necessarily cross over well. But they are all supposed to exist at once. It strains my credulity (one superhero is something I can accept; fifty with fifty different powers and origins less so). Anyway, so I liked the "realism" of this set-up. I wasn't that thrilled with the big reveal, idk. But still, I enjoyed it overall.

But one thing I cannot not comment on, and that is the wtfery of Sally's plotline/backstory/reveal/whatever you want to call it. Like, really? Really? The last we see of her, she is KISSING A PICTURE OF THE COMEDIAN? Because I guess all these years she has been pining for her rapist? Way to fucking go, Alan Moore. Gross. And it's not like we ever see a single redeeming thing about The Comedian. He is a thorough asshole, who killed a woman he got pregnant and raped another woman and is a total asshole in general. But Sally not only got over the rape enough to have sex with him again (just once? more than once? it wasn't really clear to me), but has apparently been in love with him all these years. If this had been a physical copy I read, I really might have thrown it across the room at that point. Also, just in general, and this has probably been noted by people who read comics more often than I do, but jfc, Moore has issues with women.
Title: V for Vendetta
Author: Alan Moore and David Lloyd
Number of Pages: 288 pages
Book Number/Goal: 56/75 for 2009
My Rating: 5/5

In the post-apocalyptic "future" of the late 1990s, Britain is under totalitarian rule, but a mysterious man known only as V is about to change all that.

This is pretty much right up my alley storywise. The art...well, it was bearable to get the story. I would have much preferred it as a novel, though, because the art definitely didn't add anything to me. I'm not a fan of most western comic styles and this seemed worse than most in that it was so dark and everyone's faces were half in shadows all the time, so I had real trouble distinguishing characters (especially since aside from V and Evey, they were pretty much all Generic White Guy With Short Hair). But as with many less-than-stellarly-drawn manga, it's well worth it for the story.

I kind of feel frazzled at the moment, so I don't really have much to say beyond that, though there were definitely things that didn't sit well with me, most notably the fact that while it makes sense for the government as set up here, having all the people of color and queers sent away to concentration camps sure makes for a convenient excuse to tell a story about only straight white people (except for that one tragic lesbian whose tragic life and death is nothing more than a tool to cause straight people to change). I wasn't too thrilled with the portrayal of women here, either.
Title: Bayou
Author: Jeremy Love
Number of Pages: 160 pages
Book Number/Goal: 43/75 for 2009
My Rating: 5/5

Lee is a black sharecropper's daughter in the early 1900s. When her white friend Lily goes missing, Lee's father is blamed for her kidnapping. But Lily saw what really happened, and to save her father from getting hanged, she starts off on a journey to Dixie, an alternative South filled with monsters and talking animals, to try and find the man who really kidnapped Lily.

The story is amazing. It doesn't pull any punches in its depictions of race relations, so it's not an easy read, but it's well-worth it. The art is awesome, too. It has a very unfinished look, just colored-in sketches rather than perfectly-inked drawings, but they're really well-drawn and I love the look.

I have actually been reading this online and have not read the physical book (which is chapters 1-4 of what's been posted online), but I saw several other people posting reviews of the book and was like, hey, I have read that, even if not the physical copy, so I should totally add it to my count! (That's what I do with manga that I read chapter by chapter, after all. I just add it to my list when the volume comes out.)
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([personal profile] potted_music Aug. 1st, 2009 12:06 am)
Title: Narratology
Author: Wolf Schmidt
Genre: litcrit
Book Number/Goal: 71/150

Title: Persepolis [2 volumes, English translation]
Author: Marjane Satrape
Genre: graphic novel, autobiography
Book Number/Goal: 72/150

This autobiographical coming-of-age story of the Iranian girl in the years following the revolution sure was an interesting read, but just in the way travelogues are interesting. It treats all the cliched topics in all the cliched ways: dictatorships are bad, massacres are bad, the state intruding on the private lives of its citizens is bad... nothing a reader could not have surmised on her own.

Title: Tele Vision
Author: Jacques Lacan
Book Number/Goal: 73/150

I chose it as a Lacan primer because it's quite short, and I had a bilingual French-Russian edition, which allowed me to brush up on my French somewhat. Though this book might be interesting, it's definitely not a place to start reading Lacan, as it explains nothing, referring to some of his established concepts without going into any detail.

Title: Woman in the Dunes [read in Ukrainian translation]
Author: Kobo Abe
Book Number/Goal: 74/150

A man gets kidnapped to help local villagers shovel ever-shifting sands. The tale is Kafkaesque in its mundane horror - not quite so bleak on the surface (which, I think, is a plus), but all the more horrific for it in the long run (for the defeat gets treated like a win).

Title: Очерк истории европейского стиха [read in Russian - Notes on the History of European Verse]
Author: М. Гаспаров [M. Hasparov]
Genre: litcrit
Book Number/Goal: 75/150

Title: Wizard and Glass [the 4th book of the Dark Tower series]
Author: Stephen King
Genre: fantasy
Book Number/Goal: 76/150

I'm pretty torn about this volume. On the one hand, I like King's writing style (audiobooks do bring out how *precise* he is with his words, how effectively he uses assonances & alliterations & stuff), but he doesn't always know when to stop, so many descriptive passages get repetitive & redundant. The plot, a volume-long flashback created for infodumpy purposes, felt like too much of a digression, and could have been much shorter (and, I feel, more powerful for it).

Title: Magic or Madness
Author: Justine Larbalestier
Genre: YA urban fantasy
Book Number/Goal: 77/150
Title: Magic Lessons
Author: Justine Larbalestier
Genre: YA urban fantasy
Book Number/Goal: 78/150
Title: Magic's Child
Author: Justine Larbalestier
Genre: YA urban fantasy
Book Number/Goal: 79/150

Liked the premise of this trilogy: magic users die when they run out of magic, but if they don't use it at all, they go mad. One hell of a choice that is - but the finale felt like an easy way out. The plot never quite grabbed me, and some plot points (like teenage pregnancy - yuck) just plain-out squicked me.

Title: Somebody Killed His Editor
Author: Josh Lanyon
Genre: mystery, romance
Book Number/Goal: 80/150

For an author writing romace for a mostly female audience, Lanyon sure disses both his genre, target audience AND fellow writers a lot. The protagonist of the novel is a middle-aged writer stuck at the writers' retreat, spouting insults at his co-attendants & investigating some murders. This constant stream of insults might be perceived as an attempt at creating a flawed narrator, but this made him too unlikeable for me to really care about.

Title: Palimpsest
Author: Catherynne M. Valente
Genre: urban fantasy
Book Number/Goal: 81/150

Loved it to the point of imposing the book on several friends. Beautifully written, and with a great premise - it's an urban fantasy in a sense that a city is the protagonist, a sexually-tansmitted dream-city. I don't get what purpose the non-linear narration was serving though.

Title: The Book of Dreams
Author: Catherynne M. Valente
Genre: fantasy
Book Number/Goal: 82/150

The tale of shifting identity, much like Palimpsest; beautifully written too. It's a tale of a woman from mediaeval Japan living through a number of myths in her dreams (Osiris&Isis, Oedipus Rex as told by the Sphinx, etc.). The only downside is, I'm not big on the essentialist idea of womanhood pushed forward in this novella, as some points (predestination, all-women-are-one, etc.) make me uncomfortable.

Title: Lawrence of Arabia
Author: Alistair MacLean
Genre: biography
Book Number/Goal: 83/150

I had high hopes for this one, as I adore both MacLean's prose and T.E. Lawrence, but it turned out to be a huge let-down. It's a simple retelling of Lawrence's Seven Pillars of Wisdom, but without the gorgeous descriptive passages and sharp observations that made the latter book such a rewarding read.

Title: Микола Лукаш. Від Бокаччо до Аполлінера [re-read, read in Ukrainian - the anthology of translations by Mykola Lukash from Boccaccio to Apollinaire]
Author: various
Genre: poetry
Book Number/Goal: 84/150

The ouevre of this legendary Ukrainian translator is interesting on so many points - the way some things, which would have got censored in original writing, could be smuggled into print via translations, etc. What grabbed me the most on this re-read though is how, while rendering most European meters masterfully, he fails with Japanese poetry. His failure is spectacular in its own way, as he is the only Ukrainian translator (that I know of) who tried recreating the wordplays, but such wordplays become just puns & good clean fun in translations, which misses the point of most poems.

Title: Sakura Gari [2 volumes, English translation]
Author: Watase Yuu
Genre: yaoi, historical, manga
Book Number/Goal: 85/150

Gave it a try because the art is pretty, and the Taishou Era (which this story is set in) is not often used in manga, but the plot is nothing to write home about. It features some of the most unlikeable characters I have ever encountered, as well as the good old "rape is how love is spelled in Japanese" trope.
Title: Birth of a Nation
Author: Aaron McGruder, Reginald Hudlin, and Kyle Baker
Number of Pages: 137 pages
Book Number/Goal: 37/75 for 2009
My Rating: 4/5

When the mostly-black residents of East St. Louis are prevented from voting due to a "glitch" that lists them all as felons, they demand a recount. When all they get is an apology, they do the unthinkable: secede from the United States.

This was recommended to me when I posted about Truth: Red, White & Black, also illustrated by Kyle Baker. To be honest, the summary didn't grab me all that much, but I figured what the hell, why not? and put it on my wishlist. Not like graphic novels take long to read anyway.

I ended up enjoying it a lot more than I anticipated. The writing's great and I was laughing at something on practically every page. And Baker's art works a lot better here than it did in Truth, where his cartoony artwork felt a little out of place.

One thing I didn't really like was the format. It's not a comic book, or even a series of comic strips. Neither is it a text story with illustrations. It's kind of a weird hybrid, with panels laid out like a comic, but with the narration and dialogue (mostly dialogue) underneath each panel, and I found it kind of hard to follow sometimes.

Mooch on BookMooch.
Title: Blankets.
Author: Craig Thompson.
Number of Pages: 582.
Genre: Graphic novel.
Book Number/Goal: 11/50 from my list.

Review: Here.
Title: Skim
Author/Illustrator: Mariko Tamaki (author), Jillian Tamaki (illustrator)
Number of Pages: 144 pages
Book Number/Goal: 31/75 for 2009
My Rating: 5/5

It's 1993 and Kimberly Keiko Cameron, aka Skim, is in grade 10 at a Catholic girls' school. She is: Wiccan, biracial (Japanese-Canadian/white), sort of an outcast, overweight, falling in love with her English teacher, Ms. Archer.

I really loved this. It's so...ordinary. It's not a message book, even though there are lots of things (being Asian, homophobia, being queer, bullying, teen suicide, rumors, divorce, being overweight) that could be turned into big Issues to Teach a Lesson, but they're not. They're just part of what happens. That's part of what makes this feel like a story about teens rather than a story particularly for teens (though it's not inappropriate for teens by any means).

I really love the art, too. The style is obviously Japanese-influenced...but not manga-influenced. Instead, it immediately calls to mind traditional Japanese paintings (check out the cover here), which makes for a rather unique comic style and one I really enjoyed.


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