Monday, July 27, 2020

Reviewing the Mail: Week of 7/25/20

I haven't been in the mood to write here lately, as has probably been apparent. I'm still not reading much, but it's better than I was a few months back -- in fact, I finished reading a novel today (Sunday July 26), and that's actually the second one this month. I still wonder what the hell happened to my reading time, which ebbed slowly over a decade and then suddenly disappeared when I went to all-work-from-home almost two years ago. (And I wish my eyes didn't keep changing, so that it gets harder to read month-by-month every single year as I get closer to getting new glasses.)

Speaking of not being in the mood, I think these three books have been sitting around for at least a week, so I should have written about them last Sunday. Oops. In any case, these are all publicity copies, sent to be in my capacity as Internet Influencer and All-Round Important Person.

(Yes, yes, I know. It amuses me, too.)

 is an adaptation of Edward O. Wilson's famous memoir, turned into comics by Jim Ottaviani and C.M. Butzer. Ottaviani, of course, has made a career of writing about scientists in comics form -- I've previously written about his Fallout and The Imitation Game and Feynman. I'm not personally familiar with Butzer's work, but he's done solo graphic novels and illustrated other people's prose, made cartoons and storyboards and concept art for various folks -- so that just means the world of comics is now big and expansive and filled with interesting niches. Naturalist, the prose original, just had a 25th anniversary last year, which is probably why this project is coming around -- it was about Wilson's youth and the beginnings of his love for science (particularly bugs), and graphic novels are really popular with the Young'uns These Days. What I have is a partially colored advance proof (so I won't be able to properly address the work of color artist Hilary Sycamore, if and when I manage to read it), and the real book is coming November 10th in hardcover from Island Press, the non-profit that also publishes the current edition of the prose Naturalist.

I also have the first two books in a new middle-grade series: Wanda Seasongood and the Mostly True Secret and Wanda Seasongood and the Almost Perfect Lie, written by Susan Lurie and illustrated by Jenn Harney. (Amusing to me: between the publication of the first one in February and the second one, coming August 4, Wanda and pretty much all of the non-pan-media Disney/Hyperion publishing list were traded, baseball-style, over to Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.)

Wanda is eleven and the prisoner of a horrible family -- she knows that she must have a real, better family somewhere else -- and so discovers, on that birthday, that there is a secret about her. Unfortunately, her new best friend, a talking bluebird named Voltaire, knows that there is a secret but can't quite remember the details. So, of course, the two of them have to venture into the Scary Wood to figure it all out.

(Spoiler alert: they find out the secret, and make it out, but have to go back in for a different reason for the second book. Because that's how series work.)

These look like fun, if not really my thing at this point in my life. Harney's art, though, is a lot of fun even to this old guy -- Wanda's cloud of hair is awesome both on the covers in color and as pencil art inside.

Monday, July 13, 2020

Reviewing the Mail: Week of 7/11/20

I actually had one book arrive in the mail last week -- Carrizozo: An Illustrated History, the latest self-published (and Kickstarted) "graphic novel" by cartoonist Rick Geary.

I put "graphic novel" in quotes because this is non-fiction, like most of Geary's work for the last three decades. It's also substantially quirkier than his usual books: Geary has specialized in well-researched and lovingly detailed stories of famous (or infamous) murder cases from the past two hundred years (so far, as far as I can remember, all in the US and UK). But this one, instead, is the possibly-murder-free (I haven't read it yet) story of the small town where Geary has lived for the past twelve years.

I backed it, which is why I have a copy now: this is very quirky, and I expect the only other way to get it will be if and when it shows up in Geary's webstore eventually. His other self-published books have, six months or a year after their Kickstarted incarnations, so there's a decent chance Carizozo will as well.

Oh, there's one other way, possibly: if there's a Chamber of Commerce or small local museum in Carrizozo itself, I bet there will be copies there, either to read on-site or for purchase. But that's a big maybe and not convenient for all but a very few.

I've been a Geary fan for more than three decades at this point, so I was willing to follow him in this odd direction. Frankly, I often miss the really whimsical Geary of his early career, who did a lot of off-kilter single pages and short strips in the National Lampoon of the late '70s. So anything that seems to be encouraging Gearyu to head back in that direction is good for me.