Welcome to another episode of The Reading Pile, in which your faithful correspondents discuss what they have been reading lately. These are quick first impressions on the books we have found interesting enough to read in our spare time. Feel free to chime in with your own current reading in the comments section.
Mike Pawuk: I’ve been reading Belle Yang’s biographical Forget Sorrow. It’s a beautiful look at several generations of a Chinese family history told by Belle’s father in flashbacks. Coming back home after a horrible relationship that has shattered her life, Chinese-American Belle seeks solace with her parents, but they’re still very much rooted in the Old World and their advice to her is very off-putting. Still, Belle hears the stories of her own family history from Pre-Communist China of their hardships, family battles, and experiences, and through her own family history, perhaps her own bad history can be forgotten.
I also read the decidely adult American Vampire. Written by Scott Snyder and Stephen King, with art by Rafael Albuquerque, it’s a decidely American take on a return to the bloody vampires of lore. The series is published by DC Comics’ Vertigo imprint and is for mature readers. This is the anti-Twilight antidote fans of gore have been looking for. Told in flashbacks from the 1880s through the 1920s, it features a new twist on the genre as a new breed of vampires (who can now survive in the sun) have declared war on the European vampires of old, and what you thought you knew of vampires is turned upside down. Definitely for adults or for older teens who like to see lots of blood; I’m curious where the series will be taken to.
Kate Dacey: On the digital front, I recently began following Gronk, A Monster’s Story. It’s a totally charming all-ages web comic by Katie Cook about a little monster who decamps to the human world because she’s such a poor fit in her own: Gronk loves small, furry animals, carries a stuffed kitten, and can’t imagine why anyone would relish scaring people. Most of the series’ humor is of the fish-out-of-water variety, as Gronk learns about household appliances, popular culture, and real cat behavior. Though Cook’s artwork is incredibly expressive and appealing, the series’ biggest strength is its tone: a six-year-old could read it and find it funny, but there are also jokes and situations that will resonate with teens and adults, too.
Off-line, I’ve been working my way through a stack of Yen Press titles. The cream of the crop: volume six of 13th Boy, a strange but delightful rom-com that features a talking cactus in a prominent role. (It gets weirder: Beatrice eats chicken, runs around town on his own steam power, and occasionally transforms into a handsome young man.) On one level, it’s pretty standard sunjeong fluff, with wacky hijinks and unrequited crushes. On another level, though, it’s about the pain of growing up, letting go of the past, and realizing the difference between puppy love and the real thing. The magical elements add an element of whimsy, but they also play a role in revealing the characters’ true natures, making Beatrice’s inclusion in the story seem less like a crazy afterthought than a stroke of genius.
Lori Henderson: I’ve been reading some titles for both kids and tweens. First, I read volumes 3 and 4 of Twin Spica. The story continues to be really engrossing as we learn a few more details about the The Lion crash, and Asumi’s father’s role in it. We also learn a little more about Marika, as she starts to open up a little, mostly to Asumi. A teasing question is left open at the end of volume 4 of a connection between Mr. Lion, Asumi and Marika that will definitely have me going back for volume 5.
I also read the latest Pokemon movie adaptation, Arceus and the Jewel of Life, which made references to the previous movie/book The Rise of Darkrai, which I then proceeded to read as well. In The Rise of Darkrai, legendary pokemon Palkia, who controls space, and Dialga who controls time, clash of Alamos Town where Ash and his friends have just arrived. Darkrai, a dark pokemon, is misunderstood by the people as he tries to protect the town from the battling legendary pokemon. Arceus and the Jewel of Life tells of the legendary pokemon Arceus who helped a man named Damos thousands of years ago revive his land by giving him the Jewel of Life. But Damos betrays Arceus, determined to keep the Jewel for himself. After healing in another dimension, Arceus has returned to retrieve the Jewel of Life and destroy humanity. Ash and his friends come upon the shrine just as Arceus is returning. Palkia, Dialga and another legendary pokemon, Giratina, appear as well, and with Dialga’s help, they go back in time to try to right the wrong to Arceus. Both stories are filled with lots of action and pokemon battles. Both also contain villains who aren’t what the reader is first led to believe, and in explaining how Arceus returns, Palkia’s and Dialga’s encounter in Darkrai is explained. They are really fun stories that kids will enjoy and pokemon fans will love.
Esther Keller: This weekend I read The Search, an educational comic put out by the Anne Frank House and the Jewish Heritage Museum of Amsterdam. It tells the story of Esther, a young German Jew, who had to move to Holland when the Nazis took power in Germany. Later, when the Nazis invade and start rounding up Jews, Esther is separated from her parents while in school. Esther’s story is told by her and her childhood friend, as they recount the events to their grandchild. With the help of her grandson, Daniel, Esther also reunites with a long lost friend and finally finds out what happened to her parents during the war. The only thing she had found out at the time was that they had been murdered. While the art is not stellar here, the storytelling will hold the interest of young readers. The only thing I really missed with this comic is an indicator of some sort, perhaps a different panel border, when they shifted from past to present.