It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything, so I thought I’d leave you some short reviews of 10 books I’ve read in the past month or so.
- Dear Sophie, Love Sophie: A Graphic Memoir in Diaries, Letters, and Lists by Sophie Lucido Johnson
I love letters, I love speculating about talking to Past Me and Future Me, and I love memoirs told through graphic novels. Obviously, this book was a must-read for me. The premise? Present Sophie reads through her old diaries from her high school years *and writes back* to Past Sophie, accompanied by illustrations! I very much enjoyed reading this, and highly recommend it.
- Diario Interestelar by María Durán Montes (“Interstellar Diary”)
A visual story told almost entirely without words, Diario Interestelar is possibly my favorite recent acquisition. Reminiscent of Aaron Becker‘s Journey Trilogy, you don’t have to be a Spanish-speaker to enjoy this book. A girl and her many-eyed friend arrive on Earth by airship, searching for buried treasure in Tierra del Fuego, using red kites as their guiding way-points. A visually stunning work, and I was surprised and amazed to reach the end of the book only to find that my edition (ISBN 9788494488221) includes a pull out map of their voyage! Highly recommend!
- El eco de mis muertes by Alejandra Pizarnak, illustrated by Santiago Caruso (“The Echo of My Deaths”)
I picked up this illustrated edition of one of Pizarnak’s poems, opened it, and knew immediately that I needed to buy it. Caruso’s art is surreal, dark, and spectacular, and pairs perfectly with Pizarnak’s vivid, haunting words. The pages of edition I have (hardback, ISBN 9788412537154) are actually one long fold-out piece of artwork, with different pieces with excerpts of the poems taking up 1-2 panels. Visually striking, absolutely gorgeous, and highly recommend.
- Malta: The New Poetry; an anthology of modern Maltese verse edited by Mario Azzopardi
This poetry anthology from 1971 (!) collects works by eight poets from Malta: Mario Azzopardi, Victor Fenech, Oliver Friggieri, Joe Friggieri, Daniel Massa, Achille Mizzi, Lillian Sciberras, and Kenneth Wain. The book presents poems in their original Maltese alongside English translations. As I read, I was struck by the depth and variety of distinct imagery each poet employed, their unique styles, and the way the rhythm of the poems carried over into the translations. This book was a delight to read, and my copy is now riddled with post-it tabs so I can easily relocate my favorite poems. Highly recommend!
- Cuando nadie mira: Cuaderno de desórdenes y contradicciones by Alejandra G. Remón (“When nobody’s looking: A notebook of messes and contradictions”)
I decided to buy this book because it reminded me of Orion Carloto‘s Film for Her (a collection of photography, poetry, and prose that I very much enjoyed reading).
Cuando nadie mira features about 100 pages of photography and 100 pages of essays and musings, glimpses into the author’s life, her travels, and her past. I very much appreciated the photography and liked the placement of photos and 2-page spreads in relation to the text. Some of the prose felt a bit repetitive in places, but I enjoyed more of it than not.
- Estamos llegando: Relatos para viajeros insomnes by Gisela Lupiañez (“We are arriving: Stories for sleepless travelers”)
This is a very short collection of short stories and near-poetic vignettes. Of the 19 pieces in this anthology, I absolutely loved 5, and enjoyed reading the others. I finished reading this book a couple of weeks ago, and I am *still* haunted by the story “Seven”, which is a very dread-inspiring epilogue/variant of ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarves’. Only 63 pages long, this was a quick, enjoyable book.
- Letters of Note: LOVE compiled by Shaun Usher
I mentioned earlier that I’m a huge fan of letters, so obviously I can’t get enough of Shaun Usher’s Letters of Note Project. This collection compiles letters (romantic, and otherwise) related to the topic of “love”. Several of these were previously compiled in the published Letters of Note volumes, but some of them were unique to this collection (to the best of my memory, anyway). There are some heart-wrenchers in here, as well as some that will make you laugh.
- The Imagination Chamber: Cosmic Rays from Lyra’s Universe by Philip Pullman
As a life-long fan of the His Dark Materials trilogy, I’m always hungry for more glimpses into Lyra’s world. I imagine people who aren’t die-hard fans of the books would probably rank this lower, simply because it collects the short snippets and ideas from Pullman’s worldbuilding. If I recall correctly, this book does collect all the snippets that were previously released in the “lantern slide” editions of the HDM trilogy.
- The Way Spring Arrives and Other Stories: A Collection of Chinese Science Fiction and Fantasy in Translation from a Visionary Team of Female and Nonbinary Creators edited by Yu Chen and Regina Kanyu Wang
This was a fun anthology to read, and I was enthralled by the various essays from the translators. If you don’t read this book for the stories, definitely consider reading it for the well-sourced, well-written non-fiction essays.
My favorite stories from this book were:
- “The Stars We Raised” by Xiu Xinyu (trans. by Judi Yi Zhou): stole my breath away and refused to give it back.
- “Baby, I Love You” by Zhao Haihong (trans. by Elizabeth Hanlon): emotionally-wrenching sci-fi take on attitudes toward parenting.
- “A Brief History of Beinakan Disasters as told in a Sinitic Language” by Nian Yu (trans. by Ru-Ping Chen): true delight to read as the story developed; an intense story about climate change and humanity’s choices.
- “New Year Painting, Ink and Color on Rice Paper, Zhaoqiao Village” by Chen Qian (trans. by Emily Xueni Jin): haunting tale of a little girl who was bullied but eventually turned into a creepy cult saint. Very dread-inspiring!
- Qué hacer cuando en la pantalla aparece THE END by Paula Bonet (“What to do when ‘THE END’ appears on the screen”)
This is a beautiful book with striking use of color, line art, portraiture, and juxtaposition of quotes with story. I absolutely ADORE the wrap-around art hidden on the inside of the book’s dust jacket, and wish more books did this. I’m a sucker for cursive, but felt like the places where the text shifted from typeface to cursive (or vice versa, and back again) tended to disrupt my flow of reading. This may just be my personal preference, but I would have used cursive to create greater intimacy between reader and author rather than seemingly randomly interspersing it throughout the different vignettes. The vignettes themselves were sometimes brilliant, but more often lackluster, without emotional resonance.
If you like striking art, 100% recommend picking this book up, but if you’re looking for an equally-striking story, I recommend you keep searching.