**Every year I do a reading challenge through the site Goodreads. For the last few years, I’ve set my goal as 365 books for the year. It’s not something I realistically think I can achieve, but there’s definitely a sense of accomplishment in striving.**
This month was weirdly productive. I was able to make a real dent in the e-books I’ve gotten via NetGalley yet still not quite finished on so many. I expect I’ll have month were the dam breaks. This month was primarily focused on completing the commissioned reviews sent to me by some authors at Inkwater Press. Some new comic collections showed up, and I plan on writing longer collective reviews on Rick & Morty and Star Wars. Also, I hope to write longer essays on the poetry chapbooks mentioned.
This month’s playlist felt very Spring-y and positive, to me at least. With great new tracks from Lana Del Rey and Lorde (a song I can’t stop playing), this playlist made slogging through some difficult passages more than tolerable while really uplifting others.
Nevertheless, #ShePersisted by Barbara Jane Reyes, editor
Inspired by Sen. Mitch McConnell’s chauvinistic dismissal of Sen. Elizabeth Warren during the confirmation of the bigoted Sen. Jeff Sessions as Attorney General, ‘Nevertheless, #ShePersisted’ presents 11 exceptional poets giving us work challenging not just the patriarchal status quo but racial bias and class barriers; it is a great intersectional feminist collection. This is a fabulous example of poets marshaling their art to oppose and resist.
The Vermeer Conspiracy by Eytan Halaban
My first commissioned review for the month. This mystery thriller was fun and engaging with an intelligent, working class Latina as the hero.
As we all patiently wait for season three of Rick & Morty, it’s worth our time to read more of the comic volumes coming out. Volume 3 is so much more based around action than the previous volumes that is moves at a crazy fast pace. Yet, it’s still wonderfully convoluted “sci-fi rigmarole.” What I really enjoyed about this volume were the glimpses of Summer being the ethical core of the family.
Some Thoughts on God and Other Things by Jerome Gleich
A difficult book to get through not so much for its topic (which was boorish and ham-fisted) but because the writing never really got above that of the first year composition students I teach at university.
Sanna, Sorceress Apprentice by Roxanna Matthews
It was nice to get a commissioned review in the fantasy genre. The protagonist of this series has her magic reside in crafting, knitting, so it’s a bit of a departure from the usual fair. A rather good young adult novel.
Rick and Morty, Volume 4 by Kyle Starks, CJ Cannon, & Marc Ellerby
A bit more of a clear, continuous arc through the issues of this volume. Although, it feels a bit less meaningful than previous collections–only slightly so. There are great jokes, visual gags, adventure, and grim existential observations that provoke defensive laughter. So still a great supplement to the show.
Black Hills Family Fun Guide: Explore South Dakota’s Black Hills, Badlands & Devils Tower by Kindra Gordon
A friend tasked me with a freelance gig proofreading this travel guide. So, if you find any mistakes, I’m sorry; it was my first time. Still, this is a very handy and easy to follow guide to South Dakota’s Black Hills actually making it sound like a good place to visit.
Trajectory by Richard Russo
4 stories, the primary is ‘Voice’ which is quite long and could best be described as a failed novella. The characters & academia depicted are trash people told in a perfect Pulitzer-esque tone that manages to alienate, convey alienation, bore, & show itself as overly adept.
Galaxy Love by Gerald Stern
These poems are stunningly banal. Stern has been coasting on his reputation for nearly two decades and this collection confirms his slide into lazy, inconsequential writing.
Acanemia by Lawrence Hussman
A memoir about building a career and a university, this commissioned review was interesting in terms of being a look behind the current of academia. Still not a fan of the title however.
Star Wars, Vol. 2: Showdown on the Smuggler’s Moon by Jason Aaron, Stuart Immonen, Simone Bianchi
Blood & lightsabers. Crime bosses, Bounty hunters & doublecrosses. Jedi lore & new worlds. A lot of action in this volume.
Building 8 by Anthony Mazzella
Not a pleasant read, and unfortunately, I couldn’t hide the fact in my commissioned review. These vignettes were rambling and incoherent making it nearly impossible to figure out just what the book was trying to convey.
Star Wars, Vol 3: Rebel Jail by Jason Aaron, Kieron Gillen, Ángel Unzueta, Mike Mayhew, Leinil Francis Yu, Terry Dodson
The strength of this volume is the depiction of Leia. Her relationship with the characters smuggler Sana & Rebel spy Eneb Ray were aces & fleshed out more of story of the rebellion than anything else thus far
The Legacy Rule by J. Nathan
My last commissioned review for Inkwater Press. A liberal jeremiad on how overpopulation drives our culture’s lack of sustainability and ongoing divisiveness.
Retrotopia by Zygmunt Bauman
Quietly, Bauman became one of the most astute postmodern philosophers. While he was eclipsed in the public by others who felt compelled to always make noise, his work is subtle and urgent. Bauman died January 9th, and for now, this is his last work. It is one that pushes away from the fetish of dystopia towards a reclaiming of the public and private spheres for something beyond, more challenging than utopic dreaming or dystopic nightmares.
The Last Commission by Eytan Halaban
Not as good as The Vermeer Conspiracy but still a rather solid crime/thriller-type novel. Writing commissioned reviews of Halaban’s novels was pretty fun.
A Door with a Voice by Katie Manning
This (re)visionary take on several books of the Bible is compelling. Hardly heretical but just a bit delightfully sacrilegious, these poems use their lyricism to bore into your thoughts and I love that. Another collection I hope to write a longer review of next month.
The Sieve by C.A. Caskabel
The first in a new high fantasy series, Caskabel introduces us to his protagonist (Da-Ren) through the grueling and cruel coming of age gauntlet called The Sieve that will lead him to find his place in the culture. Caskabel has built an elaborate mythology and religion that he skillfully weaves into his story as we watch Da-Ren survive.
Book Production Guide, 4th ed., by Anna Faktorovich
As a means to get more savvy with my own self-published novels, I read this guide to deepen my knowledge of how to navigate the indie author marketplace. I’m still too indifferent to salesmanship and hawking to really take advantage of guides like this but it is a very good resource.
Some Other Stupid Fruit by Margaret Bashaar
Another poetry chapbook from the Sundress collective. Superficially, I love that the cover of this looks like it was drawn by Abby from Broad City. The poems themselves are rich and challenging in their biting commentary, amusing imagery, and strangely enough deep intimacy. I hope to write a longer, better review next month.
Great Plains Geology by R. F. Diffendal
This is a sort of travelogue meant for lovers of landscape. Diffendal gives some quick, accessible basic concepts in geology, then proceeds to take the enthusiast on systematic touring of some of the most awe-inspiring locales of the Great Plains. This is a good book for undergrads, professionals, and tourists alike.
I Don’t Like Where This Is Going by John Dufresne
Aggressively tiresome, more obsessed with sideshow characters and self-satisfied narrative winks than any real storytelling. This is what happens when a literary author writes pop trash.
Star Wars, Vol 4: Last Flight of the Harbinger by Jason Aaron
Another strong volume–the Obi Wan diary entry is the strongest portion and the action arc in this one is quality. The new characters don’t detract and raise up the characters we know to the levels we expect. The art in this one kinda rubs me the wrong way at times–Leia looks too much like a hentai doll.