What is Caitlin reading? June 15 2018

It's been six months since I did one of these (I'm the WORST) so I'm gonna try to keep this short and sweet to motivate myself to get back into the habit.  Also, I do manage to consistently post pictures of what I'm reading on Instagram, so feel free to follow me there, too.

There's a couple things that I really enjoyed lately that I want to highlight, though:

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  • The Girl from the Other Side: Siúil, A Rún Vol 1-4 by Nagabe.  This is a manga that's a bit hard to describe.  It's not horror, really.  It feels very small and intimate, and it's got some of the best creature designs I've ever seen in my life.  I need someone to make me a mask so I can cosplay as Teacher.
  • Animus by Antoine Revoy.  This one is another one of those not-quite-horror stories about kids and fear and trauma.  It's really interesting and one of those books that's really beautiful even though (perhaps because) the characters are drawn...ugly?  Not monstrous, but features are pinched and exaggerated in odd ways.  I feel a way about the fact that a non-Japanese person wrote a horror story about Japanese children.
  • Spectacle by Megan Rose Gedris.  Mystery! Circus folk!  Murder!  Gedris is really good at what she does, and a lot of themes from her previous work in terms of outsider status and belonging translate really well in Spectacle, her first YA effort.  It's charming and emotional and gentle without being coy or cloying.
  • The Highest House by Mike Carey and Peter Gross.  I love Mike Carey's work, that's not new.  But The Highest House reminds me so much of the YA high fantasy I read when I was a kid and it makes me so happy.  It's Tamora Pierce and Mercedes Lackey, unflinching but kind and the worldbuiding is really rich.  I hate the size of the book, it's dumb and weird.
  • Manfried the Man by Caitlin Major and Kelly Bastow.  FUCKING CUTE.  The basic idea is that cats are people sized and do people things, but humans are cat sized and do cat things! It's adorable.  But it's also really emotional and sweet and introspective in a way I didn't expect, because I assumed it was just going to be a gag comic.  Perfect read for people with pets.
  • My Boyfriend is a Bear by Pamela Ribon and Cat Farris.  Another ridiculously cute book, and one of my best of 2018 so far books.  It's just so sweet, both to the protagonist and to people who've ever felt like she does, sick of dating (and men), sick of other people's expectations, and just wanting to be in a relationship that makes her happy.  Came for the gag, stayed for the emotional intimacy.
  • Rice Boy by Evan Dahm.  It's a little meandering, but this book is sort of the definition of "it's about the journey."  The characters and world building are fascinating, the art feels deceptively simple, and Dahm is honestly just a fucking master at what he does.  One of my best of 2018 so far books.

I love comics, everybody.  I'm also reading I Was Born For This, which is a sweet YA book from the same creator behind the Heartstopper webcomic I love, and it's making me very happy.

What is Caitlin reading? Jan 19 2018

Something new I've learned about myself (or more likely, something that I knew but have finally accepted):

Generation Gone , art by André Lima Araújo  (Also a good representation of how I felt with the flu last week.)

Generation Gone, art by André Lima Araújo

(Also a good representation of how I felt with the flu last week.)

I am not good at writing things on a consistent schedule unless I'm getting paid to do it.  I used to write thousands of words of fiction every week in college and grad school, on top of my actual schoolwork.  I also used to read thousands of pages a week on top of my actual schoolwork, but something about having a day job and being a grown up makes this a lot harder.  One of my big goals (I'm not super into "resolutions" as such) is to start pulling back from some things that keep me busy in order to dive back into things I really enjoy but haven't been able to dedicate time to.  Writing and reading more for myself is a big part of that.

So here's what I've been reading lately:

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  • The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin.  I've actually been listening to the audiobook of this, because I've discovered I'm a lot more likely to "read" fiction if I can do it while doing something else (washing the dishes, cleaning, and for the month of December and into January definitely while packing up Ladies' Night Anthology Kickstarter packages).  My friends have been telling me to read this for a long time, they've all (appropriately) raved about how great it is.  I honestly just waited until all three books in the trilogy were done because I know me and I know that I wanted to read it all at once.  Not only has The Fifth Season lived up to the hype, Robin Miles, the narrator, is one of the best audiobook narrators I've heard in a long, long time.  She does a great job with different voices and makes it very clear which character's perspective she's occupying at any given time.  The book itself is just astonishingly well done.  The chapters not only switch perspectives, but also between points of view (second versus third person).  The story unfolds naturally, and the world that Jemisin has built is rich and textured and nuanced and everything I want in my speculative fiction.  I honestly put off listening to the last hour of the book for almost two weeks because I wasn't ready to let it go, and then I remembered I could go get the second book right away and blasted through it.  (Audible subscriptions are GREAT.)
  • Rosemary and Rue by Seanan McGuire (narrated by Mary Robinette Kowal). I finished this sometime in December and somehow forgot to write it up.  Maybe because I have this weird comics =/= reading thing in my head?  That's dumb, I'm gonna stop doing that.  Anyway, I've met Mary a couple of times as we have mutual friends and it's very charming to listen to an audiobook narrated by someone you know personally.  It's like having a friend that's especially good at telling stories tell you a great story that lasts for hours.  I love it.  The book is charming and dark in really great ways, and it evoked a lot of the same emotions in me as I felt when I was first diving into really great fantasy when I was 10-13.  Lots of rich characters and crazy adventures, and urban fantasy that looks like the kind of city I live in, instead of a bunch of white folks being inexplicably rich and magic.
  • Everything is Awful and Other Observations by Matt Bellassai (narrated by the author).  I started following Bellassai when he was making "Whine About It" videos while working at Buzzfeed.  He would get super drunk on wine and rant about random things and it was hilarious and fun.  So I followed him to his equally fun podcast, and purchased the audiobook version of his collection of essays/memoir type thing as soon as it came out.  I'm not sure I would enjoy reading the book as much as I enjoyed listening to Matt read it, if I'm honest.  But he talks a lot like my friends and I do when we're ranting, and it felt a little like a love letter from one weird fat Chicagoland kid to another.  
  • Midnight Riot by Ben Aaronovitch (narrated by Kobna Holdbrook-Smith).  This is technically a re-read, as Chicago Nerd Social Club's monthly book club is discussing the title in February.  I love the Rivers of London books (and the comic books!) so much.  Aaronovitch has a really conversational writing style and the main character Peter Grant has one of the most realistic and fascinating arc of character growth over the books that I've ever read.  It's another urban fantasy title, complete with a reserved, skinny, older British man (my jam) and a dog (named Toby!).  I love the idea that there are gods and goddesses for every single body of water, down to little creeks and offshoots of bigger rivers, and I really appreciate the way Aaronovitch incorporates modernity, immigration, and refugees into the "gods exist where people believe in them" idea.  I'm stoked for book club.
  • Generation Gone by Ales Kot and André Lima Araújo.  I read all of the individual issues as they came out, but my colleague Oliver let me know that my review of the first issue was a blurb on the back of the trade, and I couldn't resist buying and rereading it.  I wasn't familiar with Araújo at all, but I like Kot's work a lot, and if anyone else had written a book pitched as "what if millenials had super powers" I would've noped out real fast.  But this book explores issues with technology, endless war, the cost of protest, police brutality, medical debt, student loan debt, and BOTH ends of toxic masculinity (the macho asshole and the Nice Guy).  It's great.  I like this book so much.
  • Black Hammer Volume 1: Secret Origins by Jeff Lemire and Dean Ormston.  Black Hammer is one of those alt-universe superhero books kind of like Supreme Power that takes a lot of recognizable superhero tropes and "flips them on their head" partly by making them more human and nuanced, which so far has necessitated making them darker and more difficult to swallow.  Lemire's work is good and I'd heard a lot of great stuff about this series, but I'm still a little torn.  For what it is, I really like Black Hammer.  But in the context of Lemire's other work and the industry writ large, it feels...repetitive?  Too familiar?  Though the characters aren't exactly big name heroes, it's really clear who they're based on.  And SO many of these types of story mirror DC characters more than Marvel, and in doing so kind of shit all over them?  I need to check out the second volume for sure, because the execution is really great, I'm just not sold on the core idea I guess...mostly because I've read it before, and a lot of the time it ends up feeling like whoever made it doesn't like superhero comics all that much but feels totally justified ripping into them.  I like stuff like Superman: Red Son or Justice League: Gods and Monsters because it re-imagines the characters as someone different without rejecting cannon; it's an attempt to dive deeper into what makes them who they are, instead of mocking who they've always been.
Jack Kirby and his famous quote, by Dylan Horrocks

Jack Kirby and his famous quote, by Dylan Horrocks

  • Hicksville by Dylan Horrocks.  I haven't read Hicksville in a couple of years, and it was before I got so involved in the industry as both an editor/publisher and a reviewer.  Rereading it now, when I'm part of the very machine that the book portrays, was a different, more personal and intimate experience.  But it also reminded me of how much I love about this medium, and why I want it to be as good as it possibly can be.  I might need to start a regularly scheduled reread, just to reinvigorate myself and take stock of if I'm really doing what I want to be doing.  Everyone should read this book, but especially people who make comics, and extra especially people who are frustrated by the way the industry has been shaped by business instead of art.  I honestly can't even start to describe what it's about without getting into really personal stuff about my feelings on capitalism and "selling out" and what art means to people who make it.  (Horrocks is also an incredible artist and really genuinely kind person, which only makes me love this book all the more.)

So there's a truncated version of what I've been reading.  I also started reading a couple new Webtoons*, and a bunch of fanfiction that's more self care than anything else.

*Super Secret (a werewolf is in love with his human neighbor but won't admit it, hijinks ensue), Sweet Home (horror comic that's just started and feels very internal and meta), I Love Yoo and Green & Gold (random romance comics that are full of shenanigans and familiar but satisfying tropes).

What is Caitlin reading? Oct 13 2017

I've been listening to Seanan McGuire's Rosemary and Rue once I'm done with my podcasts and really enjoying it.  It's a bit weird because I've met Mary Robinette Kowal, the voice talent narrating the book, before, but the voices and accents she does are just spot on and really elevate the experience.

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  • Wilde Life by Pascalle Lepas.  I just this second realized that Lepas made one of my favorite webcomics that I started reading in college (Zap!) and I'm really embarrassed I didn't recognize her art, but that's a testament to her skill, I think.  Wilde Life is VERY different than Zap! in a lot of ways, and I can appreciate that.  It's very kind, but without being soft, and I know that's not super helpful.  I find myself lately really needing to read (and watch) things that are full of people who care about each other, even if they can't always show it in productive, gentle ways.  There's a lot of crazy stuff and danger in Wilde Life, but the overwhelming sense is that the main characters are kind to one another, even when they're teasing.  It's a classic fish out of water story, a writer moves to a small town and gets caught up in a bunch of supernatural shenanigans, including the most wonderful petulant teenage werewolf in the world (the ginger up there).  Three's ghosts and witches and all sorts of fun stuff, and it's funny without being mean.  I love that.  Binged the whole thing in two sittings.
  • Heartstopper by Alice Oseman is just a very sweet webcomic about two boys in school in England playing rugby and struggling with their identities and falling in love.  It's the perfect way to combat all the worst parts of watching the news right now, and Oseman's art is so soft and expressive.
  • Cast No Shadow by Nick Tapalansky and Anissa Espinosa.  I know Anissa and she is not only super skilled but also super sweet, so I was super stoked to check out this book.  Her art has gotten so strong and expressive in the five years (holy shit) since I first met her, so Cast No Shadow is an absolute joy to look at.  But honestly, the story was...a bummer?  For really nuanced reasons that an editor at First Second should have put a stop to right off the bat.  I'm still sorting through my feelings on the book.  I still think people should pick it up and check it out, the central idea is neat and the art is freaking delectable.
  • Batman: White Knight #1 by Sean (Gordon) Murphy).  I liked this book a lot more than other people I think, which isn't a huge surprise given that I'm a sucker for anything about Batman, anything about the GCPD, and anything about social justice.  My full review of the comic is up on the A.V Club this week, but one thing I didn't get a lot of time to dig into was the idea that the Joker isn't actually the best character to tell this story.  The central idea isn't "what if Joker was a good guy" but more "let's talk about the ways Batman (and the GCPD) are the bad guys" and I would be super interested in seeing that story told without the Joker being the protagonist.  What if the residents of the infamous Narrows filed a class action suit against Batman and the GCPD?  There aren't many famous lawyers in the DC universe, but Harvey Dent might still have his license, and it'd be neat to see one of the Manhunters back in the courtroom.  Even MORE compelling to me would be if the law suit coincided with a Justice Department investigation of the GCPD led by Amanda Waller and Jim Corrigan.  Can you imagine what would happen if Batman was confronted by Spectre?  Especially if it was the pants-shittingly terrifying version from Gotham by Midnight, I would pay good money to see that.
Templesmith and Fawkes just did some really goddamned neat stuff with  Gotham By Midnight .

Templesmith and Fawkes just did some really goddamned neat stuff with Gotham By Midnight.

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I also re-caught up with much of the same list of monthly comics from September, with a couple of additions:

  • American Gods
  • Black Magick
  • Black Monday Murders

I was really doubtful they were going to be able to pull off getting American Gods to work as a comic.  It's way too wordy, but it's a really solid book that I'm enjoying the heck out of.  Black Monday Murders continues to be one of the most thinky comics I'm ready (it's basically Wolf of Wall Street + Cthulhu) and I love the art by Tomm Cocker so much.

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What's really blowing me away this week is Tom King's 'War of Jokes and Riddles' arc in Batman.  I really like King's work generally, but I'm not a fan of Mikel Janin (I know) so I've been waffling a lot about how I feel.  Especially since I hate Bruce and Selina as a couple, and their romantic relationship has been at the center of so much of this story.  But King did an incredible job with this arc, and he really pushed Riddler in particular to entirely new, and super fascinating, limits.  He's digging deep into the psyches of some really messed up characters (Batman included) and showing me things about them that I never even considered.  So even though Janin's art distracts me when it gets weirdly and inopportunely stiff, I loved this arc to pieces.  King somehow made me care about Kite Man, which is just...bonkers.

I'm gonna leave it there and go back to knitting and watching murder mysteries because it's finally fall and I feel like a new creature.

What is Caitlin reading? Sept 1 2017

It has been A Week for a variety of reasons, so I'm going to keep this short and sweet.

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  1. I finished Princess Jellyfish Volume 5 from last week!  It was good!  It always is.  
  2. I read Mage: The Hero Denied #1 and did a full review over at the A.V. Club.  It was bad, and you should definitely not bother.
  3. Clueless: Senior Year by Amber Benson, Sarah Kuhn, and Siobhan Keenan.  This was freaking cute as hell, in the same way Princess Jellyfish is.  I love books where people are, at the heart of things, supportive and loving, and not afraid to show that.  Having met Amber and Sarah (they're both adorable and kind and charming!) I'm not surprised I loved this book.  But maybe maybe more importantly, this book addresses some of the things that annoyed me in the movie (there are LGBTQ+ couples!) and is beautiful to boot.  It did make me miss Brittany Murphy a bunch, and miss my own innocence when I didn't know anything about Alicia Silverstone and Stacey Dash as people.  Go buy it immediately.  Then go buy Sarah's Heroine Complex and Heroine Worship because they're both awesome.
  4. The Dispatcher by John Scalzi.  Technically I listened to the audiobook (narrated by Zachary Quinto, who does a good job) of this novella this week in an attempt to avoid the news for a little while.  It's a good speculative fiction story set in Chicago, and unlike a lot of books it actually feels like it.  The "what if" is a fascinating one, and I don't feel like I can say much without spoiling it, but it's a solid little mystery with a compelling core idea.
  5. Jonesy Vol 1-3 by Sam Humphries, Caitlin Rose Boyle, and Brittany Peer.  This was actually a re-read because I've been buying the individual issues of Jonesy as they come out but the arrival of the trade paperbacks made me crave it.  Another bright, poppy story about a young woman and female friendship and embracing your weird.  Clearly I was on a roll this week, between this, Clueless, and Princess Jellyfish.  Sam is awesome and knows how to write flawed characters that are still sympathetic.  Caitlin's art is fun and evokes all sorts of zine memories for me.  And Brittany (who participated in Ladies' Night Anthology years ago) makes the whole book pop off the page.  I really love this book and I'm so glad I have extra copies to lend out now.
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Full disclosure, I did get the copies of Clueless and Jonesy from BOOM!, but honestly I was planning on buying them.

Let's talk about how 16 year old me would be horrified by what I read this week, and how 32 year old me really does not give a crap and would tell 16 year old me to lighten up and have fun sometimes.

I started compiling a list of all the webcomics I read regularly and honestly ever 45 minutes I was only about half done.  I wanted to make sure every single one had a working link in it and also 1-2 sentences describing it, and hopefully I'll be able to finish up soon...I read a lot of webcomics, folks.