Archive: October 2016

Book Review: Shirley Jackson’s ‘The Lottery’: The Authorized Graphic Adaptation, Miles Hyman (2016)

Monday, October 31st, 2016

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Chilling; Hyman masterfully channels the spirit of the original.

four out of five stars

(Full disclosure: I received a free copy of this book for review from the publisher, Hill and Wang.)

No point in changing things now, is there?

First published in the June 26, 1948, issue of The New Yorker, Shirley Jackson’s short story “The Lottery” has held up remarkably well over time; it’s still as chilling and relevant today as it was seven decades ago.

Set in Any Town, USA, the story opens on a sunny June day, as the bustling townspeople prepare for the annual lottery. The very word evokes feelings of hope and luck, piles of money and all the good things the winner might do with her prize. Yet this lottery is much darker and more sinister than all that; entrants don’t sacrifice a dollar to the kitty, but rather their very lives. And, until a revolution overthrows the barbaric, antiquated system, everyone is forced to participate – whether they want to or not.

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I didn’t realize it at first, but this graphic novel adaptation was written by one of Shirley Jackson’s descendants – her grandson, Miles Hyman, who has previously written and illustrated several French-language graphic novels. The result is both skillful and strangely touching; I say “strangely” because, well, it’s a bleak and brutal story.

Yet Hyman masterfully channels the spirit of the original story. The artwork is lovely, yet almost doggedly plain and drab – much like the town, which sees fit to murder one of its own in hopes of a bountiful harvest. There’s a real Leave it to Beaver quality to the story, but with a dash of noir to spice things up. As with the original, the plainness of the setting only heightens the horror that’s to come.

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The story is faithful to the original, though Hyman does add some new scenes to flesh out the history of the Lottery and its mythic box, supposedly built from remains of the very first one. Much of the dialogue is lifted right from the source material, word for word.

But this isn’t to suggest that Shirley Jackson’s ‘The Lottery’ is unnecessary or redundant; quite the opposite. It introduces the story to a whole new audience, while adding to the mythos of the original.

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If nothing else, Jackson fans should read it for the preface, in which Hyman shares a family ritual involving an ornate Victorian music box, and a childhood spent among artistic luminaries. These memories, told with obvious care and love, made me see the story in a new (dare I say gentler? nostalgic, even?) light.

(This review is also available on Amazon, Library Thing, and Goodreads. Please click through and vote it helpful if you’re so inclined!)

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Monday, October 31st, 2016

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Sunday, October 30th, 2016

Stacking the Shelves: October 2016

Saturday, October 29th, 2016

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First up: this month’s comic book acquisitions. Only the top one, The Secret Loves of Geek Girls, is a pre-order; the rest I bought used, either on ebay (The Last Unicorn) or Amazon (everything else).

I received an ARC of APB: Artists against Police Brutality on accident, and I’m beginning to suspect that its replacement is lost, so … yeah, that’s fun. I’ve burned through so many of the listings that the next cheapest copy is just a cent less than if I bought it new from Amazon. Anyway, expect the REAL copy to pop up in next month’s roundup.

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From this stack, I’d also like to give an extra-special mention to Becoming Unbecoming, which is just amazing. Honestly one of the most powerful books on rape and rape culture that I’ve ever read. Pick up a copy even if you’re not really into comic books – it feels more like an art project or memoir.

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I’m loving these all-women mini-bio girl power books, and Rad Women Worldwide is no exception. Thanks to Blogging for Books and Ten Speed Press for the review copy!

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Pictured here with a lovely scarf from Natural Feelings (#sponsored).

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THIS IS NOT A DRILL! I’m holding a copy of Blood for Blood in my hot little hands right now and I can’t even with how fierce and stunning it is. Thanks to Dark Faerie Tales and Bookiemoji – and of course the publisher, Little, Brown BFYR!

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I won this adorable kid’s comic book in the September batch of Library Thing’s Early Reviewers. YOU HAD ME AT NARWHAL. AND ALSO UNICORN.

2016-10-13 - Hag-Seed - 0003 [flickr]

I’ve already read Hag-Seed (spoiler alert: it is predictably awesome), but I was thrilled to win a copy through Read It Forward all the same. Margaret Atwood is my all-time fave, and this is the first and only physical ARC of hers I’ve owned. I plan on being cremated with it.

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From Shelf Awareness, a copy of Christina Dodd’s Because I’m Watching, which looks to be a creepy-suspenseful Halloween read. Rennie is helpfully providing some side-eye to further drive home the book’s threatening title.

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Merit Press was giving away copies of Margo Kelly’s two books, Who R U Really? and Unlocked, on Twitter, and I was the lucky winner! They were also cool enough to follow up when I missed the first DM. (Damn you, Twitter!)

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My second-ever adult coloring book, Daria Song’s The Night Voyage, for review through Blogging for Books. I’m kind of scared to try it – it looks infinitely more difficult than the Pop Manga Coloring Book! (Stunningly gorgeous though.)

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From Candlewick, a 1920s noir graphic novel adaptation of Snow White that I’ve been dying to get my hands on! Thanks guys!

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Just in time for Halloween, the graphic novel adaptation of Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” from Hill and Wang/Farrar, Straus and Giroux. This one’s more faithful than Snow White – and written by Jackson’s grandson, Miles Hyman, to boot!

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Is it just me, or does this ’70s-era foam pumpkin look eerily like a constipated Rush Limbaugh?

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I won another Goodreads giveaway! This happens so rarely it feels like a cause for celebration. Forever in My Heart: A Grief Journal is a little more religious than I expected – kind of nondenominational Christian meets New Age – but I can work with it. Creative interpretation, yo.


The perks from Lightspeed’s People of Colo(u)r Destroy! Kickstarter keep rolling in. This month it’s the October issue of Lightspeed, as well as the special POC Destroy Horror! edition of Nightmare Magazine.

I also snagged a few great deals on ebooks this month:

  • The 13th Continuum (The Continuum Trilogy #1) by Jennifer Brody ($1.99 on Amazon)
  • All That Remains by Al Barrera (FREE on Amazon)
    For review on NetGalley:

  • All Our Wrong Todays by Elan Mastai
  • Labyrinth: One classic film, fifty-five sonnets by Anne Corrigan
  • The Dark and Other Love Stories by Deborah Willis
  • Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones
  • Everything Belongs to the Future by Laurie Penny

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    Saturday, October 29th, 2016

    Book Review: The Family Plot, Cherie Priest (2016)

    Friday, October 28th, 2016

    A Creepy HGTV/CW Crossover

    four out of five stars

    (Full disclosure: I received a free electronic ARC for review through NetGalley.)

    In all the years she’d been talking to houses, the houses had never talked back.

    “We can’t salvage ghosts. They don’t sell for shit.”

    Music City Salvage is struggling: several of their clients stiffed them on pretty hefty bills, and their warehouse of stale stock just isn’t moving. So when old money Augusta Withrow approaches them about buying the salvage rights to her family estate, owner Chuck Dutton jumps at the maybe-too-good-to-be-true chance. At forty grand, it’s a gamble: that’s more cash than they’ve got in the bank, but the payoff could be huge. Or the deal just might bankrupt the family-owned company.

    Chuck’s daughter Dahlia heads up the salvage team. Also on board: her cousin Bobby, with whom she hasn’t been on the best of terms lately, not since he sided with her ex-husband Andy in the divorce; Bobby’s son, Gabe; and resident nerd Brad, a salvage virgin. The quartet has a week to travel the two hours from Nashville to Chattanooga, strip the mansion and numerous outbuildings clean, and pack it all up before the wrecking crew arrives to do its worst.

    It should be easy peasy, except that the estate is situated at the base of Lookout Mountain, and there’s a storm a-brewing, threatening to wash them all away. And Bobby is an alcoholic, and Dahl might be headed down that path too, and they kind of hate each others’ guts. Oh, and the estate is haunted. By no fewer than four ghosts. What could possibly go wrong?

    (More below the fold…)

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    Friday, October 28th, 2016

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    Thursday, October 27th, 2016

    Book Review: Pretty Deadly, Volume 2: The Bear, Kelly Sue DeConnick & Emma Ríos (2016)

    Wednesday, October 26th, 2016

    Gorgeous artwork & solid storytelling (though not quite as epic as that in The Shrike).

    four out of five stars

    I am not a bee, but I am small.
    I like to see small things win.

    There’s never been a war like him before.

    The story arc in Pretty Deadly, Volume 2: The Bear isn’t nearly as epic as that in The Shrike, and I prefer the Wild West setting to WWI. But the storytelling is still pretty solid and, as always, the artwork is some of the loveliest I’ve ever seen in a graphic novel.

    The Bear takes place several decades after The Shrike, and Sarah Fields – the BAMF gunslinger whose tears gave life to the savior of humanity – lay in bed dying. Who better to reap her than her old flame Fox? But daughter Verine isn’t ready to let Sarah go yet – not until her brother Cyrus returns home to say his final goodbyes. He’s got until the next full moon; can he make it back from the battlefields of France in time?

    Meanwhile, Death’s got a lot on her plate. The Reaper of War’s gone rogue, sending ten thousand people her way every. single. day. The cycle of life and death makes the world go ‘round, but this is out of hand! Sissy sends Deathface Ginny and Big Alice to the Western Front to bring an end to the conflict – by any means necessary.

    Like I said, the story is engaging, but a bit of a letdown in comparison to Sissy’s origin story in Volume 1. But it was great to see old friends: Sissy, who’s been tending the garden for several decades and is now a young woman; a (slightly) warmer and fuzzier Fox; Sarah, who lived a long and fruitful life, as evidenced by all the people – “whole damn family and half the territory” – who have gathered at her bedside; Johnny Coyote and Molly Raven; and our unflinchingly creepy narrators/observers, bunny and butterfly.

    (More below the fold…)

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    Wednesday, October 26th, 2016

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    Tuesday, October 25th, 2016

    Book Review: When the Moon Was Ours, Anna-Marie McLemore (2016)

    Monday, October 24th, 2016

    “And she told me a story yesterday/About the sweet love between the moon and the deep blue sea”

    four out of five stars

    (Full disclosure: I received a free electronic ARC for review through NetGalley.)

    Someday, he and Miel would be nothing but a fairy tale. When they were gone from this town, no one would remember the exact brown of Miel’s eyes, or the way she spiced recado rojo with cloves, or even that Sam and his mother were Pakistani. At best, they would remember a dark-eyed girl, and a boy whose family had come from somewhere else. They would remember only that Miel and Sam had been called Honey and Moon, a girl and a boy woven into the folklore of this place.

    The closer she got to him, the more she felt it in her roses, like a moon pulling on a sea.

    Miel and Samir are the odd ones out in their small town. In a sea of white faces, their brown skin marks them as different (she, Latina; he, Pakistani); and in this tight-knit community, their outsider status is only compounded by the fact that they were not born here.

    Sam’s story is somewhat mundane, or so he thinks: his mother, Yasmin, arrived in search of work. Miel’s origins are a bit more fantastical and mysterious: as a child, she arrived on a wave of rust-brown water, spit out by the abandoned water tower when it was deemed a safety hazard and finally brought down. Angry and hysterical (and no doubt disoriented), Miel kicked and screamed; something about losing the moon. Just a child himself, Sam was the only one brave enough to approach this dangerous, feral girl. He wrapped her in his jacket, soothed her with her voice, and returned the moon to her, one hand-painted, candle-lit orb at a time.

    From that point on, they were inseparable, each one half of a whole: Miel and Samir. Honey and Moon. The cursed girl from whose wrist roses grow, and the boy who everyone insists on calling a girl. The girl who’s terrified of pumpkins and water, and the boy who helps pumpkins grow.

    (More below the fold…)

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    Monday, October 24th, 2016

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    Sunday, October 23rd, 2016

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    Saturday, October 22nd, 2016

    Book Review: Cruel Beautiful World, Caroline Leavitt (2016)

    Friday, October 21st, 2016

    Near perfection (~90%).

    four out of five stars

    (Full disclosure: I received a free ARC for review through Edelweiss/Library Thing. Trigger warning for rape and domestic violence.)

    Once again, Iris thought, here she was, undone by love and mad with grief because of it. She had seen that poster in Lucy’s room, that ridiculous sentiment that you don’t belong to me, and I don’t belong to you, but if we find each other, it’s beautiful. What a stupid thing to say! Of course people belonged to each other. Love owned you. It kept you captive.

    At sixty-seven, Iris Gold had long since given up on having children. She and her late husband Doug were never quite able; and, when she broached the idea of adopting, he insisted that he didn’t want to raise children who weren’t his own, biologically speaking.

    But after a long and loving – if unconventional – marriage, Doug passed away in his sixties, felled in his beloved garden by a heart attack. Initially grief-stricken, Iris finally decided to carry on, as she always had done. Iris is nothing if not a survivor – a “tough old bird” – and this would hardly be the first time she’d had to fend for herself (the scandal!). So she decided to use the money Doug left her to travel to all the places she’d dreamed of, but had never been able to go: Paris. Spain. Istanbul.: “The whole world was opening for her.”

    Days before she was to depart for her new life, an unexpected phone call threw Iris Gold one more curve ball – and not the last. A man from Iris’s long-buried past had died suddenly; he and his wife perished in a club fire, leaving their two little girls orphaned. Five-year-old Lucy and six-year-old Charlotte had no other relatives. Reluctantly, Iris canceled her plans and took the girls in. In her golden years, Iris finally got the life she’d always wanted; or almost, anyway. She fell in love quickly and deeply, as did Lucy; Charlotte was a little slower to come around, but come around she did.

    Now it’s eleven years later; Lucy is a sophomore in high school, and Charlotte will be headed off to college in a few short months. But Iris’s life is upended again, when Lucy disappears on the last day of school. Though Iris doesn’t know it yet – won’t, for many months – Lucy ran off to the Pennsylvania wilderness to be with her thirty-year-old English teacher, William Lallo. In her wake, Lucy leaves behind a cryptic note assuring Iris and Charlotte of her safety – and a family that’s tattered and struggling, but surviving as best it can.

    (More below the fold…)

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    Friday, October 21st, 2016

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    Thursday, October 20th, 2016

    Book Review: To Stay Alive: Mary Ann Graves and the Tragic Journey of the Donner Party, Skila Brown (2016)

    Wednesday, October 19th, 2016

    “The men think they’re following a trail … But I know.”

    four out of five stars

    (Full disclosure: I received a free electronic ARC for review through NetGalley. Trigger warning for cannibalism and domestic violence.)

    There’s only a little gap between rain and snow,
    an open window of sunshine to go,
    it all must be timed just right
    or it will go all wrong,
    like a cup of tea that slips
    from too hot to too cold
    without leaving enough time
    in between to drink it.

    He almost shot Charles,
    thinking he was food.

    When you picture the Donner Party, of course cannibalism is the first thing to come to mind. OF COURSE. After all, it’s THE reason this ill-fated expedition made it into the history books: the gruesome lengths that many of the surviving members had to go to to stay alive. And yet murder and cannibalism isn’t where their stories begin, or end. There’s also romance, adventure, and optimism. A can-do spirit and the pursuit of the American Dream. Even if this dream is built on the backs of those who lived here before us.

    (Several times, the caravan’s livestock is freed/stolen by “Indians” – who I couldn’t help but root for – and Brown briefly mentions the indigenous populations in the Author’s Note. When the killing starts, it’s the group’s Native American guides who are the first to go.)

    In To Stay Alive, Skila Brown reconstructs these events through the eyes of Mary Ann Graves, who was nineteen when she and her family set out from their home in Lacon, Illinois to make a new life California. The already-arduous journey turned deadly when the Donner-Reed Party, as it came to be known, found themselves snowbound in the Sierra Nevada mountains during the winter of 1846-47, just a hundred-odd miles shy of their destination. While the majority of the party made camp next to Truckee Lake in anticipation of the spring thaw, supplies quickly dwindled, and so a small group set out on foot to find help. When they ran out food, they were forced to eat the dead to survive – first those felled by starvation and hypothermia, and then those murdered for food. (I’m not sure how closely To Stay Alive reflects reality, but the whole murdering-people-for-food thing seems a little more controversial IRL.)

    To Stay Alive is particularly noteworthy for two reasons: 1) it’s a novel written in verse and 2) its intended audience, which is middle grade readers.

    (More below the fold…)

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    Wednesday, October 19th, 2016