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This is a graphic novel about three young women from Canada who visit New York City. They are all sort of friends in different ways but not all three friends together. Two of them hook up, causing a bunch of weird feelings. Lessons get learned, maybe. The Tamakis, as always, do wonderful graphic novels. The illustrations of this one are gorgeous, really lush and interesting. At the same time, the vagaries of young people still figuring it out and being kind of shitty to one another can be a hard story to tell and also to read.

Big Time

I’ve liked Winters' other books but this one (where all the narrative characters are female or non-binary) just fell flat for me. Great plot, interesting concept but the women just didn’t feel like women, they felt like television’s idea of women. Like, if you have a character who is a domestic abuse survivor and then she gets killed in an unrelated (and ugly) way, you’ve decided she is a plot device and that’s a very specific authorial choice. It seemed strange and all the female characters seemed two dimensional. The non-binary character also turned out to be a plucky smartie but also they were treated in a not-particularly-interesting way. I loved the plot of this book, it was inventive and different, but the way it was handled I just couldn’t get behind.

The Last Taxi Ride

Ranjit Singh is a taxi driver, a Sikh former Indian Army captain now working in New York City. He hopes to have his teenage daughter stay (and maybe live) with him. Then he gets wrapped in some shit with the boss from his other job, the hair importer. It has to do with a woman who was a Bollywood star and now lives in NY doing... something. He has to clear his name and make it all work out. Been trying to branch out in my crime-solver reading and this was a great one, though I was sorry to find out that it was the second (and, I guess, last) in the series because now I know too much about how the first book goes but I do like the characters.

Freshman Year

I grabbed this despite knowing I do not really enjoy the memoirs of awkward young women. This was on me. This is a well done rendition of an awkward young woman talking about her freshman year of college, a year in which nothing momentous really happens (by her own admission, in the afterword) and she talks about how it felt to her. If that is a thing you think you’d enjoy reading about, then you might like this. I thought it was going to be a somewhat different sort of book.

The Book of Doors

. What if any door were every door? A compelling story about a world mostly like ours except there is a set of magical books that have special powers for those who have them. The Book of Pain, the Book of Joy, the Book of Memories and so forth. Cassie gets given the Book of Doors and discovers that there is a huge shady underworld of people who want these books and will spare no expense to get them. And of course there is a hidden library. There are some pretty evil evil people and that was a difficult part of this, for me. Just the right amount of sentiment and an interesting story.

Exit Black

A “back on my bullshit” kind of book, a space thriller about a luxury hotel on a space station and things that go terribly wrong. Mainly taking place during a very tense 24 hours. I really liked the ideas in it. However, a lot of the explication was predicated on the idea of you understanding the layout of this place. Despite the book’s map, it never really clicked for me so it was confusing and also stressful. The narrative always felt macho despite the female lead, a lot of gratuitous violence that seemed less and less explicable as the book went on. Maybe a good book for someone else?

The Third Person

This is a HUGE (900+ page) graphic novel about the author’s experience getting therapy in anticipation of gender affirming treatment. During the course of therapy she found she had dissociative identity disorder and so her therapist postponed treatment while they worked that out. Her main therapist comes off pretty bad in this retelling (some pretty unethical stuff sometimes it’s not entirely clear what’s happening) and while things work out okay in the end, it’s tough sledding as a read, though well told.

Summer of the Big Bachi

Picked this up because I like Hirahara’s other books and there’s one in this series that involves a Japanese baseball player who plays for a California team. This is the first in that series. Mas Arai is a Japanese American Hiroshima survivor who, no surprise, has seen some shit. He’s settled into a quietish life as a gardener in Altadena with a set of friends and clients. It’s a nice life but trouble finds him and he needs to sort it out. There are some confusing parts (for me) involving people from his previous life who may or may not be becoming a problem in his current life. I liked the Ara character and will definitely read the next one of these.

Welcome to St. Hell

This graphic novel discusses the author’s journey for both himself and the people around him as he works through his feelings and takes the steps to get gender affirming care as a young adult in the UK. Everyone winds up being supportive, but it took a while for some. Those folks are shown in before/after ways where you know they will come around so it makes it a little more okay to see them being non-supportive (or mainly just confused) earlier on. Some of the steps will be familiar (thoughts of “maybe I’m just a butch lesbian?” for example) and some are uniquely his. Really well drawn and well-told.

Moon of the Turning Leaves

This is a decade-later sequel to Moon of the Crusted Snow, an exploration into what happened to a small Anishinaabe community in Northern Ontario when... the lights go out. Now it’s ten years later, our crew have been hanging in there, but resources are getting scarcer and a few community members take a long journey to try to find an ancestral homeland they’ve never actually seen. A gentle story with a few terrifying moments. It takes a long time to get going and I didn’t mind the pace but it wasn’t entirely what I was expecting. So happy there was a sequel.

Lunar New Year Love Story

This book was illustrated by LeUyen Pham. I’m a Yang completionist so I picked this up from my library shelf. It’s a sweet story about a young Vietnamese woman who is trying to figure out her destiny in terms of love as she also puzzles out the complicated history of her parents' relationship (having grown up without a mother). Along the way she grows up, learns to lion dance (in both Chinese and Korean styles) and figures out who she is and what she wants. Well told, lovely book.

Two Cheers for Anarchism

A book I found in a little free library. I did not need to be convinced about some of the positive “ways of seeing” when you look at things through an anarchistic lens (mutual aid, direct action, skepticism of hierarchy) but it’s fun to hear someone from Yale saying it. This book is a series of informal chapters using examples as a jumping off point. It’s more about the negative qualities of the state than the positive qualities of anarchism, and I certainly didn’t need to be convinced, but I’ll take it.

The Mimicking of Known Successes

A mystery/cop procedural novel, sort of, which takes place on a gas giant planet that has been loosely colonized. There’s a lot of world building and a cop and a scholar who must combine forces to figure out how a person disappeared from a transportation platform at the end of the world. But they have some history which also needs to maybe be resolved and by the end of this (the beginning of a series) that starts to happen. I had a hard time visualizing some of this. It was clear the author had a pretty good idea of what it all looked like but never did. However, I really enjoyed the story and I’ll read the next one.